Bowl is Already Broken

The Bowl is Already Broken

by Mary Kay Zuravleff

An audio file of this program is available in mp3 format; click to listen.

I’m Kim Alexander, and this is Fiction Nation. When I was a child, I did things that weren’t fun — math would be a good example, and the epic battles to get my brother out of my room — dramatic, but not so much fun. But that’s not what I most clearly remember when I think about being a kid. The memories that rise to the top first are of trips into New York City. I lived on Long Island, just far away enough for it to be kind of a big deal. My mother and I would go Into The City — capitalized, of course, and spend the day at the museums. I know Mom would have preferred to stick to the museum of modern art; being an artist herself I think she liked to size up the competition, but she indulged me with long afternoons looking up at the dinosaurs, and over at the Met, the endless corridor of knights and horses in their armor. For some reason that was my absolute favorite part of the trip, and I’m sure she knew she’d get dragged down to the medieval section no matter what else we looked at. If you’re going into the city, you’re going to look at the knights. They seemed 20 feet tall — there really were giants on the earth in those days — but of course once you took a closer look at their armor it was downright petite. I could wear the gauntlet on my 10 year old hand — how was that possible?

Museums have always been more than a closet for old things. There are lives in there — there was a guy, a thousand years ago who did something, he swung an axe. Look, here is the axe. So it isn’t necessarily about art, it’s about life and the people who did things. I could never work at a museum because every old thing seems fabulously precious to me. Is this piece of wood more or less valuable than this piece of gold? And what was the craftsman thinking about when he or she made it? They made things, they created things, even just a bowl. Or like my mother, who dragged me around the city and who created a person. Maybe I’m wrong and she just liked the artwork. But I don’t think so.

Mary Kay Zuravleff is exactly the kind of person I had in mind when I started working on Fiction Nation. She’s got just a few novels under her belt, there’s no movie attached, she’s not a household name — but the book The Bowl Is Already Broken is one of the best I’ve read so far. It’s set in my beloved Freer/Sackler gallery of Asian art — carefully disguised — and it’s about the transformative power of art, and how we decide what is valuable, and what is real. I was delighted to welcome Mary Kay Zuravleff  to our XM studios.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Bowl is Already Broken by Mary Kay Zuravleff. One of my favorite places in the world is the usually quiet Freer and Sackler Gallerys of Asian art on the Mall in Washington. So I was delighted that this novel is set in that very  thinly disguised museum. What’s good for me — small crowds — is very bad for the museum, and the newly appointed, newly pregnant director, Promise Whittaker, must save her beloved gallery from being turned into a food court. The Bowl is Already Broken does in fact start with a broken bowl, but how it get dropped down a flight of steps  and what happens along the way make this one of the best books I’ve read this year. You’ll travel from the National Mall to the deep deserts of Asia, and meet some truly memorable art geeks who all have their own agendas. The Bowl is Already Broken by Mary Kay Zuravleff. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Bowl is Already Broken by Mary Kay Zuravleff. I love books about art history, and books with colorful and interesting characters, that travel to exotic locations, that have exciting plot twists, where everyone gets what they deserve — more or less. And I have found one. The Bowl is Already Broken is set in the struggling National Museum of Asian Art — how can they even think of turning it into a food court? Behind the scenes, the museum is full of juicy gossip, fascinating works of art, and a surprising look at what drives what you get to see when you go to the National Mall. And for travel buffs, how about a dig in the Taklamakan desert in Asia that goes horribly wrong? You’ll find a terrifically engaging heroine in Promise Whittaker and her loveably nutty family, and how the priceless bowl of the title gets broken makes for an unexpected plot twist. The Bowl is Already Broken by Mary Kay Zuravleff. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Bowl is Already Broken by Mary Kay Zuravleff. On the opening day of a new porcelain exhibit at the struggling National Museum of Asian Art, a priceless bowl goes flying down a flight of steps. The rest of this wonderful novel retraces the events that led up to that day, and introduces us to the cast of art lovers and history buffs that are trying to save their museum from being turned into a food court. This could have been a parody of behind the scenes maneuvering and art museum politics, but the author has gone deeper and asks us — what’s the difference between collecting art and stealing it? And which acts of creation are worth preserving? The Bowl is Already Broken also features as compelling a group of characters as I have met in a book lately, and made me want to march right down to the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art. I think I’ll go this weekend. The Bowl Is Already Broken by Mary Kay Zuravleff. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.

If you would like to learn more about the art of Asia, here’s the link to the actual Freer and Sackler Gallery of Asian Art.


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