Still Lives by Maria Hummel: a depiction of a misogynist society


Kim Lord is a giant in the Los Angeles art scene: avant garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur. And her new exhibition “Still Lives” is expected to be just as groundbreaking. Comprised of self-portraits depicting Lord as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Roseann Quinn, and many others—the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women. As L.A.’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all of the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be big enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances.

Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own exhibition.

Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls upon the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

As bright and blinding as the Los Angeles sunlight, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, one woman’s journey through the belly of an industry filled with money, secrets, failure, and genius.

Taken from the publisher’s website:


Why should you read this book?

Maria Hummel is the author of a poetry collection House and Fire and two novels – Motherland (2014) and Wilderness Run (2003). Unless you have a Book of the Month subscription and may already have gotten your copy, Still Lives will only be released in June 2018. Probably like most of you, this novel was my first Hummel’s reading experience. And, I loved it.

Kim Lord, a famous feminist and avant garde artist, goes suddenly missing. This is Hummel’s premise. Lord disappears before the opening of her new and groundbreaking exhibition that included self-portraits depicting famous, murdered women – the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, and others. One of the things I seriously loved about this book is how the author destroyed boundaries between fiction and reality, intertwining them both.

Most important of all, Maria Hummel explored a misogynist society that not only perpetrates violent crimes against women but also embellishes and ‘glamorises’ them, as a result of a twisted fascination. This book has also been described as a thriller or a crime novel but I would say that, once again, Hummel played around with these genre boundaries, creating here a literary mistery. Lastly, I do think Hummel’s voice was very singular. She is a clever and acute writer, undoubtedly.

On a final note, as a Lana del Rey’s fan, I kept thinking about her Gods and Monsters title, where she sings: “When you talk it’s like a movie / And you’re makin’ me crazy / Cause life imitates art”. That’s what I felt about this book: life imitates art and art imitates life. That’s a cycle, indeed.

I’d like to thank Counterpoint for sending me an advance reading copy.  You can buy the book here.

Book Details:

Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Published on: June 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Price: $26.00

4 stars






maria hummel misogyny still lives

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