Customer Reviews for

The Great Man

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    A cursory glance at the title indicates that this is a book about a man. It is, and it isn't. Of course, the man of the title, Oscar Feldman, rather the late Oscar Feldman, a figurative painter, plays a role. But the starring parts are given to three women, Teddy, his mistress Abigail Feldman, his widow and Maxine Feldman, his sister. Each is being interviewed by two biographers who hope to tell Oscar's true story. According to his obituary, Oscar died at the age of 78 after a prodigious career, which was totally devoted to the painting of female nudes. He remained apart from others in the artistic world, and once wrote, 'The female body is the ultimate expression of truth and beauty...' His works were characterized by bold brush strokes, and came to be highly collectible. After reading this, one can easily see why two biographers, Henry Burke and Ralph Washington, were intrigued, determined to find out the truth about Oscar Feldman. What better place to start than with his mistress, Teddy? Now 70-some she is still an attractive woman, angular with chin length white hair and a ready wit. She's a bit of a tease and gives her friend, Lila, a start when she admits 'I wouldn't mind seeing my old carcass in bed with a nubile forty-year-old body.' She's come to terms with who she is now and what her life has been. She gave birth to Oscar's twin daughters, Ruby and Samantha, and basically raised them alone. Yet, she loved Oscar, enjoyed tweaking him in front of a gathering so he would show off. She adored him...did she also manipulate him? She seems to have had the upper hand when she says that she could share him but he could not share her. Maxine is quite a different story. She, too, is an artist yet never received the acclaim that her brother did. She is an unhappy woman, who lives with her dog, Frago, and her assistant, Katerina. Not at all comfortable with who she is, Maxine wears thick glasses and thinks she looks like an 'ugly dwarf like toad.' She detested the thought of anyone writing a biography of Oscar......unless they might shed some light her way. Maxine fears she will die alone and forgotten she longs for a much closer relationship with her years younger assistant. Abigail, whom Teddy called 'Oscar's fat wife' was the favored daughter of a multimillionaire furrier. The apartment she and Oscar shared, a gift from her father, was on 84th and Riverside. She knew her husband little, assuming he would give up the silly notion of being an artist and go into business with his father. What she did know was Teddy she saw her at Oscar's openings. Of course, she was also extremely jealous but also curious. Now that Oscar was gone she ordered almost everything she wanted or needed via the Internet so that she rarely left the apartment and her autistic son, Ethan. Christensen is such a skillful author that she leads readers along, tantalizes them with lively, astute prose until an important secret is revealed and the three women come together to decide what is to be done, what is to be told and what is not. The Great Man won the Pen/Faulkner Award - deservedly so. It is a remarkable novel, rich with wit, keen observations, and characters we'll not soon forget. - Gail Cooke

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    My first experience with Kate Christensen and her work was simply magical. Her mellow prose and smooth flow of narration was skillfully marred with sharp but true sarcasm, the story felt like real life brimming with intellectual yet spicy richness, very much beyond the usual fun things I tend to read. I rarely pick up heavy and difficult books, sometimes it's nice to pick up a fun story that's an equivalent of junk food, but with Christensen you get all the hot, sizzling action, you read about secrets and kinks that people have and still nourish your head with deeper ideas of why people stay together and love each other. The separation between lust and passion, love and tenderness is sharply broken with each character in the novel but given chance they prove that crossing lines is easier now that Oscar is gone. I found this book to be stunning, luscious, naughty and brilliant, very much to the point and sometimes crass when it came to the language. This novel left me choked up, full of thoughts swarming in my head, a whole locust of ideas. I was finding new things hidden in the plot and new reasons for character's actions on my way home on the bus, while cooking or even in the shower. After reading this I still feel connected to the vibrant story of a fictional painter and the women in his life his wife, sister, the mistress and her friend and other people who mingled with him in the art world, crossing moral lines of what is art and what is pure lust. Oscar Feldman, the great man of the art world left a legacy after his death it was the women who were in his life and not the art that took the main stage in this novel, and relationships between them were as rough as the stormy seas. After his death they slowly realized that him being gone changed things, in what way, well you have to read and find out, but I promise this is an interesting read. There was also a lot of great food going on, from wines to spicy lettuces, saucy dishes and wonderful appetizers which were all part of this story, and in fact it made me crave gourmet food more than ever. I even tired the wine that Teddy, his mistress, drank and it was sumptuous. I was impressed at the dept the author was able to reach, for a young woman she took the ladies in the novel, who were in their seventies and eighties, and made them believable and captivating, it all sounded like words coming from a seasoned writer. Was the man great, yeah, maybe, but the women surrounding him were more than he could have ever imagined or appreciated. Oscar was lucky to have Abigail, Maxine, Teddy and Lila, they took over my mind as I read the book and they are still running through my thoughts, this book really leaves a lasting impression, bravo! - Kasia S.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A very good read with memorable characters

    I thought the story was quite original, especially with the large cast of characters & how they interacted with one another. A very enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2010

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