2009: 63. The Great Man

""It's amazing how well you can live on very little money," said Teddy St. Cloud to Henry Burke over her shoulder as she strode into the kitchen of her Brooklyn row house."

The Great Man, Kate Christensen

Although the book is titled after a “great man” - the recently-deceased artist Oscar Feldman - it is really the story of the women he left behind - his wife Abigail, the mother of his autistic son, his life-long mistress Teddy, the mother of his twin daughters, and his sister Maxine, who is also a famous painter (an abstractionist to his figurative painter).  I was wary when I started to read the book because I am a little bit tired of books about men and their sleeping around, and about men dominating women - all that Philip Roth stuff that tired me so much in Sabbath’s Theater.  And when I started to read the book, which begins with a biographer interviewing Teddy about her relationship with Oscar, I thought I was not going to be able to read a book about a pushy mouth old mistress.  But something clicked, and it became less about women obsessing over a man, and more about women figuring out their places in life, and their relationships with each other, and I found myself really loving the characters - and enjoying reading a story about older women finding themselves.  I really see it as a reaction piece to all these books about randy old artists and their affairs, in that rather than telling the story of the man, Christensen tells the story of the women left in his aftermath, and how their stories are as interesting (if not more) than his.

And, beyond that sort of thematically interesting things,  it is really well written and interesting and just a good story.  Christensen writes people who seem real, and the plot developments were both interesting and natural - I look forward to reading more of her work.

Date/Place Completed: May 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017