A miniature city constructed entirely of trash. An Explorer’s Club, where an artist transforms conquest to artifice through the striking use of color. A squirrel cage where dead and poisoned thoughts ricochet like Bingo balls. A forest growing inside a gallery, complete with a living raccoon.
These are just a few of the modern art landscapes, real and imaged, in Amy Benson’s Seven Years to Zero, a collection of linked vignettes that blurs the line between fiction and memoir. In a narrative divided into seven years, the collection traces on couple’s move to the metropolis, and their struggle with the decision of having a child in a world of factories, earthquakes, pollution, extinction, nuclear fallout and uncertain future. Through the lens of one couple, one city, and one child, Benson explores how art shapes awareness, and how awareness shapes our understanding of our place in a changing world.
“Perception and imagination come together thrillingly in Amy Benson’s beautiful sentences. The city is shown as a gallery, where the line between daily life and artwork tantalizingly thins. ‘We live in the middle of perpetual construction,’ she writes, and so her book accrues, trusting to not-knowing and speculation to arrive at a place where everything counts.” —Phillip Lopate, A Mother’s Tale
“An essential book for these dark and terrifying times. Benson writes brilliantly and tenderly about what it means to make art when everything is falling to pieces around you.” —Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation
“Benson has conjured that most reluctant of ghosts: the ghost of the present, the one with the most startling and strange news to report of all. These essays are at once companionable and ingenious, with a vision that feels extraterrestrial and also wholly ours.” —Rivka Galchen, Atmospheric Disturbances and Little Labors
“Amy Benson’s Seven Years to Zero is novel as museum. Just as art shows us the truth in ourselves—in being human—that is beyond words, each chapter in this novel holds the key to a door we thought we’d forgotten. Benson has painted a dystopian dreamscape, exacting details flecked with gold-tinted nostalgia, the bronze of hope. It feels like a precious object you stumble upon, and you can’t look away.” —Lindsay Hunter, Eat Only When You’re Hungry