Susan Kavanagh's Reviews > Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason

Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe
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Feb 15, 2011

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bookshelves: first-reads, memoir
Read in February, 2011

Anne Roiphe’s memoir reveals glimpses of her life from her teenage years through her late twenties (1958-1966). She is an excellent writer and quickly draws the reader into her experiences in the society of well known writers and artists. After growing up on Park Avenue in a very affluent but dysfunctional family, Roiphe rejects the buttoned down style of the Mad Men’s fifties and allies herself with the arts. She leaves Smith (too conventional) to attend Sarah Lawrence and spends her nights at the West End Bar and the White Horse Tavern. She marries an alcoholic writer shortly after college. They have a daughter and get divorced within a few years. The memoir depicts many scenes of Roiphe’s interesting social life which includes hanging out with famous writers at parties at George Plimpton’s brownstone and with famous artists during summers in the Hamptons. In hindsight, Roiphe realizes that the women in these cliques end up playing the stereotypical role of a 1950’s woman after all by serving as the handmaidens to the male writers and artists. She tells a fascinating story of the combustible mixture of art and alcohol that could produce masterpieces, but frequently brought only destruction to the artists, their wives and their children. My only quibble with the book is that it jumps back and forth in time in a confusing manner. Although each memory begins with the year, it is confusing to remember what was happening in each of these years. It is not as though 10 or 20 years goes by between memories and it is hard to keep track of whether Roiphe is in college, married or divorced without flipping back and forth. [I received this book as part of Goodread’s First Read Program.]
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