Although well thumbed, our sturdiest blueprint for the coming-of-age form of storytelling remains the Telemachy, the first four books of Homer’s Odyssey wherein Telemachus, son of Odysseus, rages against his mother’s suitors and, with Athena’s urging and assistance, hikes off in search of some trace of his father. Telemachus’s identity is forged in the furnace of his belief that his father remains alive. In the countless iterations of that tale undertaken since, art has frequently provided a character’s map from childhood to maturity, and it is to that art-obsessed subgenre of bildungsroman that Devon Code’s debut novel, Involuntary Bliss, belongs. Like Theo Decker in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, who totes a painting through his life as both key and memento, the unnamed narrator of Code’s novel elevates art to a central position, relying on it to explain, to console and to express...
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