A photographer painstakingly sets up her shot in a ramshackle loft in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, circa the early 1990s. The building itself is derelict, only semi-legal; her neighbors are painters, sculptors, other artists doing their best to thrive in the New York rat race. The photographer, Lu Rile, has been taking an extensive series of self-portraits. She’s on her 400th image in the series. When she’s satisfied with the day’s technical set-up, she stands in front of her lens, framed by the loft’s huge windows; she leaps into the air, and clicks the camera’s timer.
Meanwhile, a different sort of drama is occurring on the building’s roof: A tenant’s nine-year old son, Max, has tripped and plunged to his death.
When Rile later develops the photograph she took that afternoon, she spots something seemingly impossible, a particularly cruel instance of the ‘decisive moment’: Max’s falling body, clearly visible behind her.
This is how Rachel Lyon’s Self-Portrait With Boy begins. The novel is a rarity—a fully believable, fictional treatment of the art world, ready to share shelf space with the likes of Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, Siri Husvedt’s The Blazing World, Tama Janowitz’s Slaves of New York, and a few select others.