Leonora Carrington

Surreal visions: the best of this year’s art books reviewed

Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas first met in a gallery at the Louvre. Degas was standing, etching plate in hand, copying a picture. How audacious, Manet exclaimed, to work without a preliminary drawing. ‘I would not dare to do the same.’ And thus he revealed the essential difference between the two. Degas was a supreme exponent of drawing, while Manet was a magician of the brushstroke. In many ways they moved on parallel tracks, each interested in subjects from contemporary life, both at odds with academic convention. But their talents were at a tangent. Famously, they fell out after Degas painted a double portrait of his friend and his wife.

Bizarre images: I Hear You’re Rich, by Diane Williams, reviewed

‘What am I – I wonder, dear god – now best known for?’ It is a question asked at the end of ‘Gladly!’, one of the American author Diane Williams’s mercurial, light-footed short stories. The narrator in existential crisis has just bumped into a man she ‘once engaged with for years, amid scenes of nearly religious significance’; has found a discarded, brand new pair of ‘canvas All Star high tops’; and witnessed a boy picking up nuts that were ‘meant for squirrels’, and decided that in later life he will be renowned for either ‘gluttony’ or ‘enterprise’. The drama of these occurrences and the self-questioning take place over no more