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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  622 ratings  ·  88 reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
March 1998

With such acclaimed works as The Shadow Man and The Other Side, Mary Gordon has established herself as one of America's most important female writers. Her novels are known for their vivid explorations of the depths of human feeling and what it means to live a moral, religious, and artistic life. In Spending, Gordon examines the compl
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 9th 1998 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1998)
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I liked this book. I didn't love it when I was finished with it (for reasons I'll get to), but it was more thoughtful than I expected it to be.

Basically, a female artist (Monica) is approached by a wealthy man who proposes to be her "muse" (although patron is more like it) so that she's able to reach her full potential as an artist. But they're immediately attracted to each other and become lovers almost as soon as he introduces himself to Monica (she doesn't divulge his name until the last page
In this book, Mary Gordon deals directly with two modern dilemmas - between guilt over having wealth and wanting to enjoy it; and between wanting equality between men and women in our intimate relationships but also wanting to celebrate and express difference.

So many novels depict men and women who get squeezed, bruised or destroyed by these tensions. Mary Gordon's main character navigates them and makes it seem possible to find a way to reconcile them in a real life - not some fantasy. Novels t
This is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read.
This book felt incredibly honest and real - but wholly original, and I can say without doubt I've never ready anything like it or with characters such as these.

There is honesty in the romantic relationship between Monica and B, and the first-person narrative helps supplement the story and her own complex personality. Nothing in life is easy, but what if it were made easier? There are so many questions among these pages - discussion points about money, power, sex, family, relationships, etc. - th
Dec 27, 2007 Mairead rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Isi
Shelves: favorites
While others panned this book, I treasured the time spent reading and discussing Spending. During that phase of my life I was bogged down in critical theory and other academic writings. This book presented a bit of theory with a lot of sexy fluff. A brain in a boa.

Monica, a 50 year old artist, is middle-of-the-road until a wealthy patron nabs her up, providing her all of the spending money and time that she needs. He serves as her muse in a series 'Spent Men, After the Masters', which depicts a
Angie Abdou
Smutty! Intelligent, original and interesting, though. However, it's very long -- there are no chapter breaks and the text is packed-in tightly. I was very engaged for the first 100 pages or so and then started to lose interest. It got repetitive and predictable. I guess, it was just too narrowly focused for such a long book (in my opinion). The writing is great -- but it's so contemplative and so tightly zoomed in on the one character's thoughts that it couldn't hold my attention for THAT long. ...more
Thurston Hunger
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
My first exposure to Mary Gordon was a short story in an O. Henry Collection and I was blown away. Since then, I have read a lot of her work and have never had the same experience. When I began this novel, I was immediately pleased. Although the quality of her writing never wavers, I was sick of the narration about the love affair about halfway through. What I did love was the description of painting, the process of art, and its connection to life.
This book is about an artist who enters into a relationship with a rich man who tells her he'll serve as her muse. I enjoyed the first half of this book much more than the second half. The jacket and reviews seem to think the most intriguing thing about the story is the relationship between sex and money, but the parts I found most interesting were the discussions of artistic creation and process.
Absolutely one of the most trite books I have ever read. Supposedly liberating for women artists, but I found nothing liberating in the trite language and dull sex.
Re-reading this now, I see that the first 50 pages is the best part. Quick-paced yet not superficial, slutty yet highbrow, it's a page-turner. A guy at a reading -- er, painting discussion stands up and says he wants to be her sugar-daddy -- er, muse. Troubled that this might not be the best thing to do -- but not very much -- our heroine mulls it over and then agrees. And by "agrees," I mean "has sex with the guy." The deal is, Mr. Moneybags is going to fund her painting career and they'll also ...more
Carol Storm
Reading this novel is like watching Mother Teresa do the hoochy-coo.

It is not done well, but the surprising thing is that it can be done at all.

For those not yet in the know, Mary Gordon is the ultimate angry, uptight, failed Catholic -- her novels all feature prim, repressed, angry young Irish women who rebel against the church by having sex, (always with an unmitigated cad) only to end up embracing feminism as a "new" Catholicism that allows women to renounce sex, (for the right reasons) cele
Some interesting commentary about gender and art, sexuality and art, and how money plays into the whole deal. My interest lies in how the "muse" is a gendered construct in the arts, and I applaud Gordon's attempt to reinscribe that image as a male one - and I believe she acknowledges the cultural difficulties that such a switcheroo raises, perhaps even that a complete role-reversal is impossible.

The problem really's boring. I rarely complain about such things, and I enjoy a variety of s
I read this book right after I read the novel THIRTEEN MOONS by Charles Fraizer. I was bowled over by the opulence of the story. The heroine, an artist, can have anything she wants because she is being supported by a lover, who demands nothing but gives everything. She paints him and it is controversial. Still, she can travel, eat, play, go to the spa, spend money like mad and it is o.k. Then she becomes successful with her art. There are many modes of "spending" in this novel and the sub-texts ...more
This is not only one of the sexiest books I've ever read, but one of the very few novels in which the chief character is an artist that I don't find intensely annoying. Best of all, it has--on just the second page in the story--a perfect passage uttered by Monica, the painter protagonist, that I so often think of when I tell people I'm a painter and get their response:

"I really envy brain surgeons. People aren't always coming up to them--on beaches, in coffee shops--and saying, 'You know I do a
This book took me forever. I'm not sure how I feel about it and I wish there had been chapters to help me pause appropriately along the way. but now it's done.

The story was fine and it brought up discussions of the roles of money and gender and careers. Maybe I read it 15 years later than it was meant to be read but it didn't grab me. The writing was lovely, descriptions of art were excellent and vivid but even now I only feel "meh"at having finished.
One of my favorite books, ever.
I love Mary Gordon's writing style. To steal a friend's words, every word she uses is the perfect word.
The story and the characters and the writing are just fabulous. Sometimes, it seems like it's not just a story because it brings up all kinds of issues and conundrums and interesting discussions. I kept finding myself devouring it and then trying to force myself to slow down so I could enjoy it longer. And I felt that way from the day I started the book!

I can't s
The story is pure fantasy. An artist is suddenly given the opportunity to create her work freed from the bonds of money and timeby a wealthy patron who ends up being her lover and model. He supports her latest, scandalous artistic vision of re-creating classical images of the deposed Christ as postorgasmic rather than deceased. Her series creates a huge commotion from her fellow Catholic School friend..... It is a fun book hand delivered to me by a good friend who advised that I take it on vacat ...more
This is a really different book - and a great read. It is about a female artist in her 50s. it demonstrates great relationships (both family and sexual) and troubled relationships (like between art and money). I would have said that this book is better for those of us closer to 50 except that Lindsey just returned it to me with rave reviews! I think anyone with any art education will especially appreciate this book (but i have NO knowledge of art and that did not get in the way of my enjoyment s ...more
Listened to this on audio -- cassette tape, actually -- many years ago. I don't remember as much as I'd wish, though there is a dinner party at the end that I recall as both funny and moving. In retrospect, I wonder if it was a play on the dinner in To the Lighthouse?

I do have the actual hardcover, somewhere. I should look it over again; I met Ms. Gordon at a signing, recently, and she got me thinking of the kind of reading I used to do, back when I worked in a bookstore and had all the time --
Dana Jennings
Loved this book. Very sexy.
I really enjoy Mary Gordon's writing. It's a fantasy for sure but very enjoyable to read. It's also about art and the process, which I found interesting. The story evolves beyond the initial fantasy of a rich benefactor providing everything which provides for the reader a very good story. Money changes relationships and who has the money changes relationships. It has a couple surprises.....and kept my interest. It's a fast read inspite of no chapter breaks.
One word to describe this book - sensuous! Sometimes fast & frantic; sometimes languid - always sensuous. This is a conversation (& musings) from an artist's point of view during a love affair. Her musings about art (looking at and creating art), sex with her lover, food, friendships, the physical world around her, money (having it, making it, losing it) are....Sensuous, sumptuous, luxurious, opulent, rich, deep, intense, affective, aesthetic and lush.
I love this book. Beautiful lyrical writing, very fascinating, sexy look at a few radical years in a 50-something artist's life. I read some reviews saying that this book is sacrilegious and offensive because of the way the artist interprets religious pictures. I hadn't considered that before (since it wasn't my religion) so readers should beware of that. Otherwise, it's a beautiful book, and one I love to read again and again.
Genni Gunn
This one is a second read for me. I read it the first time when it came out. Mary Gordon's writing is energetic, amusing, thought-provoking. Best of all is her 50+ female character, fully sexual, and fully in charge of herself. The novel reverses the archetypal story of the male artist with the female model as muse, to create a feminist artistic perspective. An excellent book, just as good on the second read.
I came across this at my favorite thrift shop in Evanston and found myself reading it from cover to cover. An painter, 50ish, and feminist from the 60's and a wealthy commodities broker come together.
Money & art & the artist, being a muse, sensuality, spending, and hot, hot hot sex! Dry humor, insightful. Different read. Probably the ultimate fantasy book for me!
A feminist fairy tale in its way, Mary Gordon's mesmerizing tale is a sumptuously written exercise in what would happen if you had enough money to do all the things you and your work required. And that money came from an attentive and passionate lover. Luscious prose for grown-ups (I love it when the lead characters are fifty-ish and wild).
Teri Pannesi
I read this book after taking an art class and while it's not strictly about art, it has art as the center of the story.

The artist in the book theorizes that all the paintings of the dead Christ are in fact, paintings of Him after sexual satisfaction. He's literally, spent.

It is a love story, of art, love and the love of art.
John MacMillan
The novel creates an intimate look at the emotions and thinking of a woman painter and her dependence on her model / patron, with whom she is having an affair. The tables are reversed and she becomes his patron, with psychological impacts on him. The feelings are believable, but the story is just an excuse to explore these feelings.
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Mary Gordon was born in Far Rockaway, New York, to Anna Gagliano Gordon, an Italian-Irish Catholic mother, and David Gordon, a Jewish father who converted to Catholicism. While growing up, she attended Holy Name of Mary School in Valley Stream and for high school attended The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica, N.Y.. She is Catholic.

She received her A.B. from Barnard College in 1971, and her M.A. from
More about Mary Gordon...
The Love of My Youth Final Payments Pearl Joan of Arc Circling My Mother: A Memoir

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