Your flight overseas has been delayed. You’re sitting in the waiting area, and you hear name called. You remember a friend by that name – Jeff Cook – in college, but it’s been years. Then you see him walk to the gate agent, and you know it’s the same man.
You meet, you talk, and then he invites you to the first-class lounge. And there he tells you a story of what’s happened to him since college. And he starts with the event that changed everything, when he saved a man, a stranger, from drowning by giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Jeff didn’t know the man’s name, but he’s able to find out. He can’t explain why this becomes so important, but he needs to know who this man is. He tracks him to an art gallery, a very high-end art gallery, in Los Angeles. He occasionally follows the man when he leaves, and he discovers the man is having an affair. And then Jeff walks into a receptionist’s job at the gallery. And he never tells the man who he is or how he knows him. But the man recognizes something in Jeff 00 himself at a younger age.
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson is the story of Jeff Cook, told by a nameless narrator about whom all we know is that he’s a writer. It is a story about art and artists, the retail art world, an interest that becomes almost an obsession, and contemporary relationships. It is an unusual, almost strange story, leading to a conclusion that is hinted at but still surprises, or shocks. And it’s a story about how different people would answer the question, what happens when you save someone’s life?
Wilson is the author of two previous novels, The Interloper (2007) and Panorama City (2012). His writing has appeared in numerous literary publications, including The Paris Review, Story Quarterly, Best New American Voices, and others. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he’s received a number of awards and recognitions, including the Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin. Wilson has taught writing at UCLA, Stanford, University of Iowa, University of California at San Diego, and the Otis school of Art and Design. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.
Mouth to Mouth will never allow you to think of the art world in the same way as might have before reading it. It also shows how interest and obsession can almost become identity. It's a riveting read.
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