The Gift is, in many ways, the antiAtocha where Lerner's narrator fails to achieve a profound experience of art, Browning's has an intense intellectual and emotional response to music, dance, and performance. Meaning isn't just accessible to her, it's also movingly conveyed to the reader. Here, art is one of the love stories.
This is a book about performance art, yes, but it's also funny and suspenseful. The narrator's friendship with Sami, a musician in Berlin, takes place virtually, and the negotiation of their growing intimacy, as well as the question of who Sami really is, is the tension that propels the book.
What's extraordinary about The Gift is the seriousness with which it takes the idea of joy, the idea of offering something, unbidden, to a stranger, the idea of making something purely out of love. It takes some very heady ideas about performance art, Occupy, and gift economies and makes them beautiful.
Browning's work as an artist offers a range of opportunities for nontraditional promotion, collaborations with video artists, events at venues like Judson Church, and creative use of the ukulele covers that play such a prominent part in the book, and already live on her soundcloud page.