Fielding Dawson studied painting under Franz Kline at legendary Black Mountain College, where he grew a deep attachment to the painter. Dawson later found himself moving about the Abstract Expressionist circles in New York City that centered at the Cedar Bar.  It was there that  alcohol, lovelorn jealousy, and artistic rivalry turned friendships into emotional dramas as fractured and beautiful as the paintings that the artists were killing themselves to make. Dawson's memoir captures these scenes, and his reactions and involvements in them, with pitch-perfect, overwrought, youthful emotion. There aren't a lot of dates or art history in this book, just elliptical vignettes that capture the time in a young person's life when things are so beautiful, people are so special, and everything is so important, that it almost breaks you.


"The evening following the morning Jackson [Pollack] was killed I went to the Cedar and Franz was at the end of the bar, crying, slumped on a barstool. He'd stayed up with a bunch of painters telling stories, laughing and drinking to Jackson, and somebody said "Jackson would have liked it," which might have been true, but there was no doubt, when Franz was talking, Franz would be the man to listen to, and surely Franz joined in to soothe his shock.

By nightfall he was exhausted. I stood beside him drinking a beer, and he looked up, saw me looking at him tenderly. He touched me, and later, I asked him, perfectly, what he thought Jackson had done.

Franz responded softly as tears ran down his cheeks, "He painted the whole sky; he rearranged the stars, and even the birds were appointed."

He looked up in misery and pointed down at the front door of the bar, and said huskily,

"The reason I miss him -- the reason I'll miss him is he'll never come through that door again."

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