Feast Your Eyes

Written by Myla Goldberg
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Lillian Preston is a woman driven to capture her unique world vision through the lens of her camera. In 1953, the seventeen-year old abandons her Ohio home to study photography in Greenwich Village, NYC, taking candid shots of strangers by day, and developing them late into the night in a tiny lavatory in her shared apartment.

Two years later, a brief romance gives Lilly a daughter. Samantha is incorporated into Lilly’s artistic vision; first as her own fertile body swells, and then as a rolling photo blind. Few people notice the young mother pushing a baby carriage with one hand and taking furtive photographs with the other. Naturally, Samantha appears in Lilly’s photos, but the world pays little attention until 1963, when Lilly’s photographs are featured in a Brooklyn art gallery. The collection includes “Mommy is Sick,” based on an illegal abortion Lilly had received, nude self-portraits, and photos of Samantha in her underwear. The show’s reception varies from raves to revulsion.

Is it obscenity, or is it art? Award-winning author Myla Goldberg explores this eternal debate in her amazing novel, Feast Your Eyes. She also explores Samantha’s feelings about her involuntary role in the legal debate – revulsion, mixed love for her mother and fury at feeling exploited for her art, and Samantha’s search to discover her own identity. Ms. Goldberg uses Lilly’s journal, letters from friends, and the adult Samantha’s gallery notes to tell her story – a technique I love when done well, and Ms. Goldberg’s treatment is superb. I highly recommend Feast Your Eyes for all readers.