Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist

A novel by Laurie Foos

May 1, 1997 • 6 x 9 • 171 pages • 978-1-56689-057-1

Lauded as “the unholy love-child of Kafka and Erica Jong,” Laurie Foos lampoons the art world, middle class, and the media, while exploring the mystery of the imagination.

Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist is a zany story of sexual identity, repression, obsession, and the concept of art as both a destructive and redeeming force. Morton Fisk has recently died of dehydration in the family’s bathtub. A famous sculptor of “Men With Chainsaws,” he did all his work sealed away in the basement of their Connecticut home wearing only his torn briefs.

On the eve of his daughter Frances’s eighteenth birthday, his widow marries “the Kingpin,” an owner of three bowling alleys. Her mother tries to lure Frances to the life of the middle class—far away from the art world and the dementia that claimed her husband. Soon Frances’s life is filled with bowling balls, pins, polyurethaned floors, and pizza.

Depressed, Frances visits an aquarium. Witnessing two walruses in the heat of mating, Frances is transformed—she has found her muse! The walruses start to occupy her every thought. She sees them everywhere, including her bedroom. Running in fear, Frances and her friend Bessie take to the open road, with the libidinous beasts close behind. Will Frances and Bessie survive? Can art be controlled? Will the highways be destroyed from the weight of the walruses? Foos, a brilliant young satirist, has the ability to make the bizarre sound matter-of-fact.

About the Author

Laurie Foos is the author of Ex Utero, Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist, Twinship, Bingo Under the Crucifix, Before Elvis There Was Nothing, and The Giant Baby. She teaches in the low residency MFA program at Lesley University and in the low residency BFA program at Goddard College. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children. Visit her website at www.lauriefoos.net.


“The demands of this Lennonesque surrealism can sometimes be onerous, yet Ms. Foos’s book is much more than an exercise. Her voice is a bold and tuneful guide in a world where nothing seems to fit.” —Sally Eckhoff, New York Times Book Review

“A mad tale of a mad genius, by a young author who may be a genius herself. . . . The real strength of the narrative is the clarity with which it translates private griefs and misapprehensions into coherent symbols capable of advancing an astonishingly original story. Brilliant, fresh, and remarkable: one of the few works of recent years in which brave originality is sustained by genuine skill.” Kirkus

“A slippery, comic, coming-of-age novel in which the artist-to-be heroine has to choose between the banal serenity of bowling and the dark night of the walrus. Laurie Foos again demonstrates that she is a cutting edge original—sassy, surprising, and uncanny.” Jonathan Baumbach

“An extraordinary writer. Is this a new genre, North American Magic Realism or Enchanted Anguish? Fiction is not going to be quite the same ever again—post Foos.” Fay Weldon