Surprising summer reading
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The book was something of a surprise. I had not heard of “The Great Man” and knew nothing about its author, Kate Christensen. The title, author photo, and first few pages led me to expect a different book, one I was surprised Susan would recommend. I was wrong.
The novel is about a constellation of women whose lives have revolved around the eponymous “great man,” a critically acclaimed artist so much larger than life that he remains at the heart of the women’s lives despite having died five years earlier. This could so easily have been light fiction of little consequence. There is the wife, the mistress, delicious food being prepared, a few outfits being chosen: all the basic warning signs of what is condescendingly referred to as chick-lit. (I could stop here and do a whole rant on the sexist dismissiveness of this term, but I won’t.) .
But then came the surprises: substantive and fascinating discussions of modern art and artists, septuagenarians in unapologetically juicy relationships, serious questions of what truth is and what art is and how women’s lives unfold through conscious decision and circumstance.
In short, I devoured the book and find that, several days later, it remains with me, satisfying and thought-provoking. And, no surprise, I’m going to read more of Kate Christensen’s work.