Monday, July 27, 2009

a kept man

So many people recommended more Margaret Atwood, but when I returned to the library, her section was practically empty. And so my eye stumbled along the A section to Jami Attenberg, who wrote A Kept Man (she also has her own Youtube channel, which followed her book tour – neat idea).

An artist falls from a ladder into a six year coma. His wife sells off his paintings to support herself and him – as she navigates the art world, the medical system, the eventual deluxe nursing home, waiting for him to die. I stuck with the novel because little details regarding life with a genius rung rather true.

Much of her day is filled with the agendas of a creepy dealer and a creepy best friend of the coma-artist, who is also an artist and player. In fact none of the art people are likable all. They are seen as mercenary because they aid her in the sale of the husband’s paintings, which are worth more and more as time passes. The almost-widow suffers every time she has to sell a work, valued at 50 grand a pop – of which there are hundreds, poor girl.

Things take an interesting turn when she finds revealing photographs. The comatose was no angel. She remembers the questions and doubts and his “authoritive artist voice” answers. I did not have a lot of sympathy for her though because she had no identity, outside of coke whore, before she met him. Great, she cleaned up - but he didn’t. He was the artist who painted whores and strippers and then of course fucked them, ever so necessary to his art. Original story in the history of art!

In just about every novel about artists I have read, dealers are made out to be vulgar or dumb, but I have found this to rarely be the case in the real world. It leads me to believe that the writers did not know any – or just liked easy, cheap shots. Except of course for The “Genius,” which featured a dream-dealer, telling the hero what a privilege it was to work for him…but this is fiction, I must remember.

9 comments:

CAP said...

Now back to looking for some Atwood!

Eva said...

You don't like me reading silly "arty" chicklit, CAP?

I'm on the wait list for the Blind Assassin.

m. said...

at least the book jacket doesn't suck...much. xoxo!!

Eva said...

Yes, m., I think you are right; nice cover.... hope you are doing well this summer.

CAP said...

Well life would be pretty boring if we only read the profound and worthy all the time.

I read my share of trash and lowbrow, so I'm not criticizing.

But I am a fan of Atwood.

I guess the thing about a story like this is the theme, which is something like - if your partner is very talented or generally considered exceptional by society - are you supposed to make allowances for them in your relationship? Or, just because they're a genius, doesn't mean we should allow them to cheat on us.

That doesn't seem such a silly chicks-only theme, really.

But also Eva - I'm intrigued by your remark - 'I stuck with the novel because little details regarding life with a genius rung rather true.' - Am I to take it, you've partnered some artworld star at some point? Or put up with 'genius' tantrums from a lover?

Unkempt Man said...

I was thinking of signing that comment Unkempt Man...

Eva said...

Hey CAP, I have partnered with those who were legends if only in their own mind. A couple truly changed the landscape around them though. And I think you nailed it - we are supposed to make allowances in the relationship. But relationships take different skills, require different considerations and respect. Geniuses don't always get that. I've actually heard more than once "I can't believe you're going to do....just what you want to do." As if someone else knows best...

CAP said...

I think the topic goes beyond just artists where these kind of allowances or indulgences in a relationship come into play.

In my experience very rich people often have weird expectations of a relationship (I'm very poor). There's always money involved somewhere, for them. Often their connections and prestige are supposed to excuse more basic shortcomings, like courtesy or sensitivity.

This applies to women and men. OK so things look different when you're brought up by servants, and there are no official rules for a relationship - you sort of negotiate them as you go along. But at some point you look around at other couples and wonder "What sort of deal have I got myself here? I'm not feeling like we're equals or partners".

Genius or not at some point you're supposed to share....

Eva said...

Agreed. The art world has its share of trustfunders and I fell in with a few. In my experience they were often late and there's not even an excuse. But I was a working woman - every hour accounted for. Eventually I married someone who grew up not too far from where I did and who labored for everything. We speak the same language, even if it's not at all about art.