Wednesday, March 04, 2009


For Barrie Summy's Roundup.

by Kate Christensen

The fictitious Oscar Feldman, five years dead, is the subject of biographies by two men in this graceful novel.

The artist's favorite subject has been female nudes. He also surrounded himself with women: a wife, a long-term mistress, an artist-sister, daughters--all of them mostly ignored to serve his muse. All of them seemingly in orbit around the Great Man. This great man is better at finding ways to use women than to celebrate them through his art.

But these women are the formidable founts of knowledge that his biographers will need to consult. His biographers are a naive young man (baby, in tow, in several scenes) and an older, more intellectual, African-American man. Each biographer brings particular strengths and weaknesses to the pursuit.

Our belief in Feldman as a great artist fades as our belief in the women as compelling, interesting figures grows. Feldman had stood between these women in life; after his death, they gradually come together.

If this sounds like a dry study of the artistic life, I've presented it incorrectly. It is a comedy of manners such as Jane Austen might have written in 2007. It is also funny, insightful, charming, and clever. I highly recommend it.

For more reviews of The Book Review Club, go here.


Scott D. Parker said...

My wife's a jewelry artist and draws pretty well. I think she'd like this book.

Here's where my manly cred might get squashed. The book sounded interesting as I read the review but I thought, "Might not be for me." When you wrote "It is a comedy of manners such as Jane Austen might have written in 2007" I was so there. I've enjoyed every period version of Austen's works and have thought about reading them.

Oh, and that last line was the clincher: "I highly recommend it."

pattinase (abbott) said...

If you read any literary fiction, I'd think you'd enjoy it. It's a very clever dissecting of THE GREAT MAN. I'm hoping over to see the Rozan review. Now my husband likes her novels.

Todd Mason said...

Sounds a bit like the film GUINEVERE. Which is worth seeing, not least for Jean Smart.

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting. I love to find out more about artists of every kind.

Linda McLaughlin said...

It doesn't sound dry at all, Patti. In fact it sounds like a very interesting novel. I love Jane Austen, too.

Barrie said...

My, my, I thought I'd already commented. Yikes. Anyway...very interesting sounding book. Much different than what I normally read. Which means I should read it! Thanks for joining in, Patti.

Sarah Laurence said...

This sounds like an interesting subject for a novel. I appeals to me as both a writer and artist. Good review!