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Luminous and intensely personal, Art and Madness recounts the lost years of Anne Roiphe’s twenties, when the soon-to-be-critically-acclaimed author put her dreams of becoming a writer on hold to devote herself to the magnetic but coercive male artists of the period.  Coming of age in the 1950s, Roiphe, the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, grew up on Park Avenue and had an adolescence defined by privilege, petticoats, and social rules. At Smith College her classmates wore fraternity pins on their cashmere sweaters and knit argyle socks for their boyfriends during lectures. Young women were expected to give up personal freedom for devotion to home and children. Instead, Roiphe chose Beckett, Proust, Sartre, and Mann as her heroes and sought out the chaos of New York’s White Horse Tavern and West End Bar.  She was unmoored and uncertain, “waiting for a wisp of truth, a feather’s brush of beauty, a moment of insight.” Salvation came in the form of a brilliant playwright whom she married and worked to support, even after he left her alone on their honeymoon and later pawned her family silver, china, and pearls. Her near-religious belief in the power of art induced her to overlook his infidelity and alcoholism, and to dutifully type his manuscripts in place of writing her own.  During an era that idolized its male writers, she became, sometimes with her young child in tow, one of the girls draped across the sofa at parties with George Plimpton, Terry Southern, Doc Humes, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, and William Styron. In the Hamptons she socialized with Larry Rivers, Jack Gelber and other painters and sculptors. “Moderation for most of us is a most unnatural condition . . . . I preferred to burn out like a brilliant firecracker.” But while she was playing the muse reality beckoned, forcing her to confront the notion that any sacrifice was worth making for art. Art and Madness recounts the fascinating evolution of a time when art and alcohol and rebellion caused collateral damage and sometimes produced extraordinary work. In clear-sighted, perceptive, and unabashed prose, Roiphe shares with astonishing honesty the tumultuous adventure of self-discovery that finally led to her redemption.From the Hardcover edition.
Published: VintageAnchor an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780385531658
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Writers will understand this book. If you enjoy the avant garde and the wildly interesting--if not mad and wild--side of the mid 20th century, this book is worth the read. Roiphe weaves together a series vignettes from her youth out of chronological order. Her story describes her desire to write, the loss of the desire and the eventual rekindling of that desire. Is the desire to create, to seek out a place in the memory of future generations through your creation, a source of madness? Her style of writing captures the state of her mind as she dealt with the parties, the alcohol, the writers, the artists and a young child in tow. She chronicles her marriage, and mentions her daughter--ever careful to refer to her as the child but leaves her story largely unwritten because she feels it is her daughter's place to write her own story if she so chooses. Roiphe's writing is therapy for her, and it is important for her to express herself, to express these stories in such a way as to explain how she made the choices she made, even if she can't express why. She seeks out experiences, to be a part of the wild life in New York in the 1960s, to be a part of the scene. She speaks to writers, especially the reluctant writers, the ones who are compelled to write from some deep desire within their souls. She is a kindred spirit to the writers who write not to be famous but because there is no other imaginable thing to do. One can run from writing for only so long and try to replace it with experiences and other purposes. Roiphe finally accepted the necessity of writing and answers the question for herself, were the running, subjugation to men, sexual travails, emotional pain all worth it?more
This is an amazing, honest, and sad memoir about Anne Roiphe's life amongst the literati in late 1950's/1960's New York. What's stunning about the book is how an intelligent woman like Roiphe could repeatedly hitch herself to some damaged man, thinking that her lot in life was to assist him in creating masterpieces. Roiphe allows herself to be used by these guys (many of whom are somewhat forgotten/no one reads anymore), while they drink themselves into oblivion. It is amazing that such a world once existed - or rather that women allowed themselves to be treated in this way. "Madness" is a good way to describe it- self-delusion would be good too. I could barely put "Art and Madness" down; it was compelling, in the way that wrecks and collisions are fascinating. Although in this case one can't help but wonder why the 'vicitims' (Roiphe and the other wives and women in these literary men's lives) put up with their crap, and didn't get out of the way. Truly a snapshot of a completely different world....more
I have been of two minds about this book – being so conflicted that I held off on my review until I had a chance to read the book again. From the outset, let me say I loved the dreamlike, disjointed and free-flowing quality of her writing style. Isn’t this exactly how our memories come to us? Her spare portrayal has a reportorial aspect. I would have liked a little more judgment in hindsight. I was taken enough with the book to consider some of her other autobiographical work to see if it would change or inform my opinion of this book. After two readings, though, I still can’t seem to answer, why does Anne Roiphe make me so angry? Could it be class differences? She was born into wealthy circumstances, lived on Park Avenue and was well educated. Even when she was abandoned and mistreated by her husband and subsequently divorced, she suffered the ‘rigors’ of summers in the Hamptons, and affording frequent babysitters on her whirl as a peripatetic partner, all the while apparently not holding down a job. She turned up her nose at the trappings of upper class life (lawyer/stockbroker husbands and country club memberships) as being unexciting. Yet, in the service of “Art,” she faced another drudgery of typing manuscripts, being the sole source of money, the sole (often negligent) caretaker of her children and waiting on end for her husband to return home. More so, I think it was Roiphe’s use of “Art” as excuse and justification which roused my anger. Her youth and young adulthood appears to have been spent as handmaiden at the altar of – capital A – Art, in service of the male writers and artists who produce it. In her portrayal (and others I’ve read) these men are essentially arrested children: Narcissistic, avoiding adult responsibilities to their wives and children and focused on satisfying sensory desires for booze and sex. Cloaking this boorish behavior as the rightful attributes of artistic endeavor (“Art”) was a means to achieve their selfish means. Reading the recent novel, “A Paris Wife” (novel about Hemingway’s first marriage), I excused his wife’s passivity and masochism for her husband’s art as being a product of her time. Forty odd years later, Roiphe portrays herself as an active and eager participant. She is a free spirit, running from suburban conformity and sexually adventuresome. After a while, her escapades seem less about “Art” for Art’s sake, but rather a way of chasing fame and fortune. She left both her boyfriend in Spain and her husband as much for their lack of success. Her many conquests – no matter how dispassionately related – eventually seem gloating notches on a literary bedpost. Ultimately, Roiphe comes to value the creation of art herself rather than servicing artists. She went on to be a well received writer. She did so in a time when so many other women were only just beginning to ‘raise consciousness’ and ‘self-actualize.’ There were no roadmaps and a few role models. This book is best read as an insider’s experience of a peculiar time in feminism and women’s taking possession of Art as their own.more
"I believed that art, for me the art of the story, the written word, was worth dying for."We hear about great writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Pound and Eliot, and their names are nearly mystical and eons away from us. But what would it have been like to be near to the pathos and genius, to be moving in the same circles as the novelists, poets, and playwrights that were giants in their day? Men like George Plimpton and Doc Humes, founders of The Paris Review? William Styron and Norman Mailer. Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. Would it influence how you view yourself? Would it affect your priorities? How far would you go to stay in that world? What would it take to pull you away from it?Anne Roiphe's Art and Madness covers a time during the fifties when she partook in that literary monarchy. Not as a writer herself, but as one of dozens of girls, attracted to these fatalistic, complex, seductive, self-aggrandizing men-- women who sacrificed pieces of themselves, martyrs in the name of Art. Much has changed since the days the public revered The Writer. Now, writing is viewed more through the prism of a career, rather than a "calling." As Kate Roiphe reveals in the foreword, her mother (now a well regarded author with many accolades of her own) treats her own work "with all the romanticism of a factory worker off for a day on the assembly line." Art and Madness charts that transition, that "slow and painful and interesting evolution." "Normal life beckoned with all the appeal of soiled bedsheets. I wanted to dance in the dark, cheek to cheek, with something dangerous, something that would make me feel alive."As a student enrolled in Smith College, Roiphe begins to realize she doesn't want to share in the type of lifestyle that her fellow classmates are destined to have. She looks at her mother, and rejects the ideals and setting of her childhood. She will not be a part of the staid suburbs, country club luncheons, golf get- togethers, and other banal happenings. Dammit, she will not be the kind of woman who wears pearl necklaces. But at that time, what is the alternative? Transferring to Sarah Lawrence is the inception of her intellectual and philosophical transformation. But what are her alternatives? Even at this new college, an eminent professor declares that the words of women are "not worth the paper they [are] written on." If she cannot be a writer, she will be a muse.And so she dons her non-conformist uniform of jeans and black leotard. Heavy eye makeup and no lipstick. (Think back to the fifties and remember what they wore then.) If she cannot make the earth tremble with her words, she will flit about, in the world of those who do--self-destructive, selfish men who neglect their families and dive headfirst into an existence full of raving and roaring, of alcohol and heavy drug use, all the in the pursuit of Greatness. Roiphe's memoir goes back and forth in time, in seemingly random scenes, and eventually culminates to the moment when she realizes that this pursuit of literary immortality and creation has resulted in a vast landscape of casualties. It is not a price she is willing to pay anymore.Salvaging what she can of her life, and her child's well-being (she marries and then divorces a tortured playwright), Roiphe once again transforms, this time from a muse to a writer. It is a long and arduous passage, full of one epiphany after another, but Roiphe writes with an unflinching eye towards her younger self, chronicling her flawed aims and her many mistakes. For those of you who have not read this novel, it would appear that I have included spoilers. Actually, Roiphe's memoir unfolds in a way that you know how the story ends at the very beginning. All in all, a gripping read. Roiphe writes with poetic compactness and illustrates a bygone era with such precision you will be surprised to realize you weren't there yourself.more
From the start I struggled to find the purpose of this snapshot-in-time memoir. In the beginning there is a brief mention of Roiphe at age 11 but most of the book is confined to the 50s and 60s; Roiphe's artistic coming of age. There is a parade of authors mentioned, name drops like Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Salvador Dali and on and on. Despite a yo-yo'ing time line across the decades there is a constant in Roiphe's dedication to holding her male counterparts up for success. It was an era when use and abuse of women was the norm and Roiphe takes it all in stride. As she says, she was the muse instead of the writer. Throughout Art and Madness Roiphe illustrates a different side of motherhood as she shamelessly bares the truth about toting her daughter all over predawn New York to answer the drunken beck and call of prominent men. But, with destruction comes the need to rebuild. In the end, Roiphe finds a self-proclaimed redemption. The muse becomes a writer in her own right.more
I loved this memoir. Other than having a great title, this book is written with style and a simple gracefulness. While I am not usually a fan of non-fiction, the manner in which this memoir was written, as well as its' subject matter, made if hard for me to put this one down.With regards to subject matter - the memoir basically covers Roiphe's involvement in the literary art world in the '50s & '60s. Roiphe really brings this time period, and this specific cultural sect, alive for the reader.Prior to this book, I had not read anything by Roiphe. The intelligence and beautiful, lyrical writing style, however, make me eager to get my hands on some of her other work.I highly recommend reading this memoir.more
Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without ReasonAnne Roiphe (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)Anne Roiphe’s latest book works in much the way that memory does. Fragments—some rising to the status of anecdotes, some not—arrange themselves outside the stodgy limitations of chronology to form totems and meaning.The story being told is of the late 50s and early- to mid-60s among New York’s literary and artistic smart set. The gas chambers of World War II and the looming atomic apocalypse both cast their pall over Roiphe’s coming-of-age, and much of her sexual awakening is tinged with death, and all the more poignant for it. Great authors make appearances in both her pages and her bed. Her adoration is torn between her small, troubled daughter and these men who are part god and part bull. Roiphe and the other women on the scene are inevitably the china shop.I’m not generally a fan of memoir, but Roiphe’s prose-poem style drew me along. At every curve, the exact right word or turn of phrase is chosen, where lesser writers would have droned on for angst-ridden paragraph after paragraph or, God forbid, page after page. Nine times out of ten, it is lightning she captures in a bottle, rather than the lightning bug.The usual suspects make appearances: George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, Doc Humes, Terry Southern, and a host of playwrights, chief among them Roiphe’s first husband Jack Richardson. It is such a particular time and place—before the Pill, when even the rich married painfully young and poets still commanded something like awe instead of pity. Roiphe observes closely, and humanely, the messy results of the privilege and entitlement we used to extend to “great men of letters.” But it is a time that was passing away before Roiphe’s eyes, and all the parties in the Hamptons, late nights at George Plimpton’s house, and beautiful women’s beds in the world couldn’t turn the tide.more
Anne Roiphe’s (nee Ricardson) memoir covers only a small part of her life: her late teens through her 20s. This was the time in her life before she started writing herself, when she was dedicated to propping up the male authors in her life. This book may well appall many readers, particularly young women. But this was the 1950s and early 1960s. In the writing world of the time, women were not the artists but the muses and the caretakers. The male authors Roiphe writes of are all irresponsible alcoholics who sleep around endlessly, to the point that George Plimpton tells her that he may not remember having slept with her a couple of years down the road; she finds out later he was right. A Park Avenue girl, the author, enthralled with modern literature, decided to throw over the ideals of her parents and live a Bohemian life. While socializing with some of the great writers of the time (Mailer, Styron, Terry Southern, Doc Humes), she ended up marrying a man who was sure he would soon join those stars in the firmament of literary greatness. He spent more time in bars, at parties and with prostitutes than he did at home and she accepted this as being what he needed to do ‘for his art’. He took the money she made, ate the food she provided and ignored her. He manages to stay around enough to get her pregnant with the daughter who is consistently left at home while her parent’s are at parties (usually not together) and who observes a stream of men in her mother’s bed. Thankfully, Roiphe eventually gets rid of the husband, finds a man who doesn’t drink himself into a stupor every night or have sex with any woman available, and finds her own writing ability that was put aside for so many years while she devoted herself to being available to male authors. Roiphe paints this picture unsparingly. She expects no pity for the way she was treated and makes no excuses for the things she did; she simple places the facts out there for us in a dry manner. This could not have been an easy book for her to write. I’m sure a number of people will condemn her for her actions back then, both feminists and moralists. She admits at the end that if she had it to do over, she would have lived her life differently. This was a fascinating book. The look inside the New York literary scene of the time is a real eye opener. I did have a problem with the structure; it jumps around in time constantly and was very hard to follow. But it was worth the effort.more
This short memoir is presented as a series of vignettes describing various scenes from Anne Roiphe’s life as a young socialite, lover, wife, and mother. To share intimate thoughts and actions from these tumultuous years is an act of bravery from a 75-yr-old feminist. There are few women who could describe the crazy 50’s and 60’s New York scene from the inside like this unflinching writer. I found it to be a perceptive re-assessment of her choice to be a muse to famous men. The stories are not in chronological order so the effect is much like her life in those years, perpetually in motion and flitting from person to person, experience to experience. The memoir includes a moving foreword by her daughter, Katie Roiphe. It seems telling that her daughter is referred to namelessly as “the child” during most of this book. Does she regret her early life? There is a resounding answer at the end of this story.more
Anne Roiphe is brutally honest about her cronies, friends, enemies and herself in the autobiographical work. She takes a long hard look at her life and how she lived it, but it's hard to tell how she felt at the end. My sense of her life was that it floated aimlessly in a sea of literary maleness, never quite as important as the men she was surrounded by. I think all her experiences made her the strong person she came to be, but at a questionable price.more
This is an intriguing, odd book. The author tells, in a disjointed, scene-shifting fashion, the story of her life from her late teens to her early thirties. She marries a playwright and becomes part of the young intellectual scene in New York in the fifties and early sixties. Author Roiphe brings the era to life with all its failed promise. It's amazing how different things were then. Roiphe falls in love with a man who is in love with himself; he doesn't bother to hide it. He drinks so heavily it's alarming; he gambles; he cheats; he squanders her money and ignores their child. He's a repellent personality with no sense of responsiblity. The modern reader is apt to become impatient with the whole thing, and wonder why Roiphe doesn't just ditch the guy and go on with her work. But, as the author makes very clear, she sees no role models for female authors (Cather and Woolf seem too alien to apply to herself); in an astonishing paragraph, we learn that she had never met a woman doctor or lawyer. She knew they existed, but not in her sphere. In this time and place, women were seen to be servers of men, and men, especially talented men, were granted almost god-like status, suitable objects of worship by the women they used and abused. How and why Roiphe breaks away from this self-destructive pattern makes up the arc of the book.There are one or two unusual aspects here: The author refers to her husband only as "Jack" and insists that he's a failed dramatist, yet he won an Obie. She calls her daughter "the child" almost always; she never mentions the child's name, and only calls her "the baby" or "my daughter" two or three times. As a mother, I found this somewhat offputting and yet interesting. She clearly loves her daughter deeply; why doesn't she use her name? And I noted that, with the exception of her ex-husband, all the authors she exposes are dead. I'm not saying that she's not telling the truth--I'm saying I thought she was still protective of authors still alive, in spite of their singular failings as human beings.Most of the book is written in short sentences, very reminiscent of Hemingway's style. I found this a very moving, and very disturbing exploration of a time and a way of life that has almost disappeared.Highly recomended if you are interested in the fifites or in feminist issues.more
This is a beautifully written memoir about the author's life in the 50's and early 60's when she was in her 20's. She, like many women of her generation, wanted to be part of the literary scene of the time, and could imagine no other way to do that than to become a male writer's caretaker/muse.The book gives a lovely, and, I assume, accurate portrait of that sort of life at that particular time. Roiphe and her talented, self destructive, alcoholic first husband were part of the scene that included writers such as Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, and William Styron. Lots of ego issues, jealousies of all kinds, sexual experimentation, and lots and lots of alcohol. The usual breakdowns, break-ups, and destructions follow. Roiphe admits that her behavior and the prevailing atmosphere they lived in damaged her daughter. The author is honest about this confused time. She was doubtful about her abilities as a writer, and wondered "how women married men who did not want to be writers, men who would be ordinary. What were these women doing with their lives?" It's hard to imagine a woman saying this today. What a difference 50 years has made in America.Eventually Roiphe remarries and does become a successful writer. She claims to feel no pity for her younger self who was "ready to live off the written words of someone else." I enjoyed and was fascinated with this memoir. The period of history is intrinsically interesting, and Roiphe's experiences seem somehow both unique to her as well as representative of an era.more
Anne Roiphe’s Art and Madness is less a memoir than a series of vignettes focusing on a very unsettled time in her life. She takes the reader back and forth in time as she moves from man to man, drama to drama, bad to worse. A child of the fifties, young Anne feels the only way to be a part of the literary world is to attach herself to male writers. And she does, again and again, be they single, married, alcoholic, mentally unstable, what have you. The dreamlike quality of Roiphe’s writing lulls the reader and the knowledge that she and her daughter made it out alive (if not entirely unscathed) dulls the horror of some of the situations they find themselves in. To say this book is “good” or “interesting” seems inadequate. Mesmerizing is perhaps the most apt description.more
This is a memoir covering about 10 years when the author was in her twenties, when she rejected the dullness of upper crust life and dedicated herself to the art of men. She describes a world of writers, artists, and actors emulating Hemingway in their alcohol, women and living full tilt. The people, famous and not, were intriguing but I most appreciated her close observation and ability to portray the scene. I was particularly impressed with her thoughts as she pulled herself out of the spell and chose to be a writer herself. My only complaint was that I found it hard to become emotionally attached to the author.more
I've become an avid fan of Anne Roiphe again, after a forty-year hiatus. The last fiction I read by Roiphe was Long Division back in the early 70s. But in the past few years I've been reading her various books of memoirs - EPILOGUE, 1185 PARK AVENUE, and now her latest, ART AND MADNESS. And let us not forget the new book's subtitle, because it is exceedingly apt: A MEMOIR OF LUST WITHOUT REASON. Who'da thunk the famously sedate fifties were filled with so much sex, drinking, sleeping around, visiting of prostitutes and, well, yeah, lust. Roiphe was born on Christmas Day 1935 and was raised under conditions of wealth and privilege, although her home life was plagued by parents who did not love each other, a philandering and cold father and all kinds of other unhappy stuff. That story is told in 1185 PARK AVENUE, all the way up through the dissolution of Roiphe's own first marriage and the deaths of her parents and brother. EPILOGUE is all about the grief-stricken period which followed the sudden death of her second husband, a marriage that had endured for forty years.ART AND MADNESS is quite a different kind of animal. It was written, perhaps, in response to repeated queries from her adult daughter Katie (also a writer, who penned the Foreword) about what Mom's life was like during her twenties. But I also got the feeling that, at 75-plus, Roiphe is beginning to fell time closing in, because, unlike the carefully crafted prose of the other two memoirs, this one is told in a kind of full-speed-ahead, stream-of-consciousness mode, in a broken, back-and-forth chronology jumping between the fifties and sixties. There are no chapter headings; each section is labeled only with a year, and may jump from high school to young-married/new-mother, then back to a college year, and so on. The style is often terse and short, almost Hemingway-esque in manner. I thought too of the simplistic style of another minor writer I remember from the 60s, Jonathan Strong and his debut book, TIKE AND FIVE STORIES - and a damn good book at that. Other readers, I have noticed, complained of two many "I's" in this book. I noticed this too, but I didn't feel it detracted in any way from the forward (or backward) flow of the narrative. It maintained a uniform speed, which was considerable for the entirety of the book. So I'm not going to 'dis' this stylistic change, because it's not worse, it's just different. And it works, because you feel the urgency to get the stories told; you also benefit from the lifetime of encyclopedic reading she's done and a hard-won wisdom she has gained in the intervening years. Because a younger writer could never have told the kind of story you read here.There is so much here that is so on-the-mark about coming of age in the 50s (and early 60s too). On dating, for example -"...I let Bill kiss me until his face was covered with lipstick. I let him put his hands on my breasts. I didn't let him do anything else, because I knew that if I did he would talk about me." Then she tells how at the end of the evening, at her door, he became "not the knight in shining armor," but a "predator," and how she didn't want to be "spoiled goods," as her mother warned her.There is a rather sad yet nearly comical description of her deflowering in a Barcelona tenement during an overseas college jaunt, by a would-be writer - a lover whose writing turned out to be so bad that she was glad to see the last of him.There is much here about the doomed-to-failure marriage to playwright Jack Richardson, a man described as entirely self-centered, alcoholic and deeply damaged. In fact he sounds like he may have had some form of Asperberger's in a time before that disorder had even been 'discovered.' A child results from this unfortunate union, which finally dissolved after six years. "The child" - which is the only way Roiphe ever refers to this baby here - ends up irreparably damaged herself, despite being adopted by Roiphe's second husband, a good marriage which lasted for over forty years.And then there are all the endless parties, happenings and orgies at which Roiphe was a frequent 'decoration' during her divorced years, all the adulterous affairs with married artists and writers from those crazy decadent years that were the 60s. She makes no apologies, but she's not particularly proud of any of it either, noting at the close of her narrative that she "would never do it again. Never." Many famous writers with whom she had dalliances are named here - almost all of them dead now, victims of alcohol, drugs, and too-much-too-soon - or in the case of her first husband, not enough; just failure. This is one hell of a ride, lemme tell ya. I found most of it positively riveting. If I have a complaint, it's that there is some redundancy here, stuff from the other two memoirs that is repeated. But if you only read this one, that's not anything you'll notice. And this is an excellent, blazingly honest slice-of-life from the artistic scene in NYC in the 50s and 60s. I will recommend it highly.more
It is always interesting when one writes a memoir about a period in their life long ago. Roiphe - a beautiful writer - seems to remember certain scenes very well. They spill from her pen onto the pages like tears. But what stands out for the reader is Roiphe's sadness about the entire time period of her life (late teens to her early 30s). Those are years that many people remember as being happy, lively, adventurous. Life is new, all experiences are fresh. Yet Roiphe remembers so much of that time with obvious pain. Her pain begins to slice through the reader's consciousness until there is discomfort in the audience.A woman reminiscing about life in the 1950s amongst men of letters and men of art brings to mind books such as Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters or perhaps Diane di Prima's Recollections of My Life as a Woman. Both Johnson and di Prima lived in similar times as Roiphe, a time before the real advent of women's liberation. Yet Roiphe's memoir holds none of the toughness and grit of di Prima and Johnson. Perhaps it is because Roiphe's socio-economic background was so different from theirs. Read this book to experience Roiphe's beautiful, gentle, eggshell-thin writing that almost breaks one's heart. Read this memoir to reflect on what women's lives were like in that era when one felt compelled to choose between one's own art and a man. Be prepared, however, for a certain unreality that may be difficult to grasp for some: the author grew up in a privileged household and it may be hard to empathize with many of her youthful exploits, even the ones that pull on our emotions and remind us we are alive. Roiphe's privileged background seems - throughout the memoir - to make her difficult to understand. Most of all, her yearning not to marry a stockbroker or play golf but to lead the life of an artist somehow rings false, particularly because she seems rarely capable of being without a man in her life. Being married and having security seems more important than anything in her life, including her child. However, once she found the man and obtained the security, she went on to have a successful life as a writer. The problem is that many may find that her lack of real financial struggle puts her in a different class from many of the women who struggled to build careers in art and literature during that era. Gorgeous writing is worth a lot, but many may find it hard to identify or empathize with the writer.more
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.]more
If you can imagine Betty Draper's second husband being Jack Kerouac, then you would sort of have the picture of what this gorgeously written memoir is like. Anne Roiphe perfectly captures the New York City literary scene in the sixties, still a time when women put their dreams on hold in order to help the men in their lives realize their dreams. Powerful stuff.more
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Writers will understand this book. If you enjoy the avant garde and the wildly interesting--if not mad and wild--side of the mid 20th century, this book is worth the read. Roiphe weaves together a series vignettes from her youth out of chronological order. Her story describes her desire to write, the loss of the desire and the eventual rekindling of that desire. Is the desire to create, to seek out a place in the memory of future generations through your creation, a source of madness? Her style of writing captures the state of her mind as she dealt with the parties, the alcohol, the writers, the artists and a young child in tow. She chronicles her marriage, and mentions her daughter--ever careful to refer to her as the child but leaves her story largely unwritten because she feels it is her daughter's place to write her own story if she so chooses. Roiphe's writing is therapy for her, and it is important for her to express herself, to express these stories in such a way as to explain how she made the choices she made, even if she can't express why. She seeks out experiences, to be a part of the wild life in New York in the 1960s, to be a part of the scene. She speaks to writers, especially the reluctant writers, the ones who are compelled to write from some deep desire within their souls. She is a kindred spirit to the writers who write not to be famous but because there is no other imaginable thing to do. One can run from writing for only so long and try to replace it with experiences and other purposes. Roiphe finally accepted the necessity of writing and answers the question for herself, were the running, subjugation to men, sexual travails, emotional pain all worth it?more
This is an amazing, honest, and sad memoir about Anne Roiphe's life amongst the literati in late 1950's/1960's New York. What's stunning about the book is how an intelligent woman like Roiphe could repeatedly hitch herself to some damaged man, thinking that her lot in life was to assist him in creating masterpieces. Roiphe allows herself to be used by these guys (many of whom are somewhat forgotten/no one reads anymore), while they drink themselves into oblivion. It is amazing that such a world once existed - or rather that women allowed themselves to be treated in this way. "Madness" is a good way to describe it- self-delusion would be good too. I could barely put "Art and Madness" down; it was compelling, in the way that wrecks and collisions are fascinating. Although in this case one can't help but wonder why the 'vicitims' (Roiphe and the other wives and women in these literary men's lives) put up with their crap, and didn't get out of the way. Truly a snapshot of a completely different world....more
I have been of two minds about this book – being so conflicted that I held off on my review until I had a chance to read the book again. From the outset, let me say I loved the dreamlike, disjointed and free-flowing quality of her writing style. Isn’t this exactly how our memories come to us? Her spare portrayal has a reportorial aspect. I would have liked a little more judgment in hindsight. I was taken enough with the book to consider some of her other autobiographical work to see if it would change or inform my opinion of this book. After two readings, though, I still can’t seem to answer, why does Anne Roiphe make me so angry? Could it be class differences? She was born into wealthy circumstances, lived on Park Avenue and was well educated. Even when she was abandoned and mistreated by her husband and subsequently divorced, she suffered the ‘rigors’ of summers in the Hamptons, and affording frequent babysitters on her whirl as a peripatetic partner, all the while apparently not holding down a job. She turned up her nose at the trappings of upper class life (lawyer/stockbroker husbands and country club memberships) as being unexciting. Yet, in the service of “Art,” she faced another drudgery of typing manuscripts, being the sole source of money, the sole (often negligent) caretaker of her children and waiting on end for her husband to return home. More so, I think it was Roiphe’s use of “Art” as excuse and justification which roused my anger. Her youth and young adulthood appears to have been spent as handmaiden at the altar of – capital A – Art, in service of the male writers and artists who produce it. In her portrayal (and others I’ve read) these men are essentially arrested children: Narcissistic, avoiding adult responsibilities to their wives and children and focused on satisfying sensory desires for booze and sex. Cloaking this boorish behavior as the rightful attributes of artistic endeavor (“Art”) was a means to achieve their selfish means. Reading the recent novel, “A Paris Wife” (novel about Hemingway’s first marriage), I excused his wife’s passivity and masochism for her husband’s art as being a product of her time. Forty odd years later, Roiphe portrays herself as an active and eager participant. She is a free spirit, running from suburban conformity and sexually adventuresome. After a while, her escapades seem less about “Art” for Art’s sake, but rather a way of chasing fame and fortune. She left both her boyfriend in Spain and her husband as much for their lack of success. Her many conquests – no matter how dispassionately related – eventually seem gloating notches on a literary bedpost. Ultimately, Roiphe comes to value the creation of art herself rather than servicing artists. She went on to be a well received writer. She did so in a time when so many other women were only just beginning to ‘raise consciousness’ and ‘self-actualize.’ There were no roadmaps and a few role models. This book is best read as an insider’s experience of a peculiar time in feminism and women’s taking possession of Art as their own.more
"I believed that art, for me the art of the story, the written word, was worth dying for."We hear about great writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Pound and Eliot, and their names are nearly mystical and eons away from us. But what would it have been like to be near to the pathos and genius, to be moving in the same circles as the novelists, poets, and playwrights that were giants in their day? Men like George Plimpton and Doc Humes, founders of The Paris Review? William Styron and Norman Mailer. Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. Would it influence how you view yourself? Would it affect your priorities? How far would you go to stay in that world? What would it take to pull you away from it?Anne Roiphe's Art and Madness covers a time during the fifties when she partook in that literary monarchy. Not as a writer herself, but as one of dozens of girls, attracted to these fatalistic, complex, seductive, self-aggrandizing men-- women who sacrificed pieces of themselves, martyrs in the name of Art. Much has changed since the days the public revered The Writer. Now, writing is viewed more through the prism of a career, rather than a "calling." As Kate Roiphe reveals in the foreword, her mother (now a well regarded author with many accolades of her own) treats her own work "with all the romanticism of a factory worker off for a day on the assembly line." Art and Madness charts that transition, that "slow and painful and interesting evolution." "Normal life beckoned with all the appeal of soiled bedsheets. I wanted to dance in the dark, cheek to cheek, with something dangerous, something that would make me feel alive."As a student enrolled in Smith College, Roiphe begins to realize she doesn't want to share in the type of lifestyle that her fellow classmates are destined to have. She looks at her mother, and rejects the ideals and setting of her childhood. She will not be a part of the staid suburbs, country club luncheons, golf get- togethers, and other banal happenings. Dammit, she will not be the kind of woman who wears pearl necklaces. But at that time, what is the alternative? Transferring to Sarah Lawrence is the inception of her intellectual and philosophical transformation. But what are her alternatives? Even at this new college, an eminent professor declares that the words of women are "not worth the paper they [are] written on." If she cannot be a writer, she will be a muse.And so she dons her non-conformist uniform of jeans and black leotard. Heavy eye makeup and no lipstick. (Think back to the fifties and remember what they wore then.) If she cannot make the earth tremble with her words, she will flit about, in the world of those who do--self-destructive, selfish men who neglect their families and dive headfirst into an existence full of raving and roaring, of alcohol and heavy drug use, all the in the pursuit of Greatness. Roiphe's memoir goes back and forth in time, in seemingly random scenes, and eventually culminates to the moment when she realizes that this pursuit of literary immortality and creation has resulted in a vast landscape of casualties. It is not a price she is willing to pay anymore.Salvaging what she can of her life, and her child's well-being (she marries and then divorces a tortured playwright), Roiphe once again transforms, this time from a muse to a writer. It is a long and arduous passage, full of one epiphany after another, but Roiphe writes with an unflinching eye towards her younger self, chronicling her flawed aims and her many mistakes. For those of you who have not read this novel, it would appear that I have included spoilers. Actually, Roiphe's memoir unfolds in a way that you know how the story ends at the very beginning. All in all, a gripping read. Roiphe writes with poetic compactness and illustrates a bygone era with such precision you will be surprised to realize you weren't there yourself.more
From the start I struggled to find the purpose of this snapshot-in-time memoir. In the beginning there is a brief mention of Roiphe at age 11 but most of the book is confined to the 50s and 60s; Roiphe's artistic coming of age. There is a parade of authors mentioned, name drops like Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Salvador Dali and on and on. Despite a yo-yo'ing time line across the decades there is a constant in Roiphe's dedication to holding her male counterparts up for success. It was an era when use and abuse of women was the norm and Roiphe takes it all in stride. As she says, she was the muse instead of the writer. Throughout Art and Madness Roiphe illustrates a different side of motherhood as she shamelessly bares the truth about toting her daughter all over predawn New York to answer the drunken beck and call of prominent men. But, with destruction comes the need to rebuild. In the end, Roiphe finds a self-proclaimed redemption. The muse becomes a writer in her own right.more
I loved this memoir. Other than having a great title, this book is written with style and a simple gracefulness. While I am not usually a fan of non-fiction, the manner in which this memoir was written, as well as its' subject matter, made if hard for me to put this one down.With regards to subject matter - the memoir basically covers Roiphe's involvement in the literary art world in the '50s & '60s. Roiphe really brings this time period, and this specific cultural sect, alive for the reader.Prior to this book, I had not read anything by Roiphe. The intelligence and beautiful, lyrical writing style, however, make me eager to get my hands on some of her other work.I highly recommend reading this memoir.more
Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without ReasonAnne Roiphe (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)Anne Roiphe’s latest book works in much the way that memory does. Fragments—some rising to the status of anecdotes, some not—arrange themselves outside the stodgy limitations of chronology to form totems and meaning.The story being told is of the late 50s and early- to mid-60s among New York’s literary and artistic smart set. The gas chambers of World War II and the looming atomic apocalypse both cast their pall over Roiphe’s coming-of-age, and much of her sexual awakening is tinged with death, and all the more poignant for it. Great authors make appearances in both her pages and her bed. Her adoration is torn between her small, troubled daughter and these men who are part god and part bull. Roiphe and the other women on the scene are inevitably the china shop.I’m not generally a fan of memoir, but Roiphe’s prose-poem style drew me along. At every curve, the exact right word or turn of phrase is chosen, where lesser writers would have droned on for angst-ridden paragraph after paragraph or, God forbid, page after page. Nine times out of ten, it is lightning she captures in a bottle, rather than the lightning bug.The usual suspects make appearances: George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, Doc Humes, Terry Southern, and a host of playwrights, chief among them Roiphe’s first husband Jack Richardson. It is such a particular time and place—before the Pill, when even the rich married painfully young and poets still commanded something like awe instead of pity. Roiphe observes closely, and humanely, the messy results of the privilege and entitlement we used to extend to “great men of letters.” But it is a time that was passing away before Roiphe’s eyes, and all the parties in the Hamptons, late nights at George Plimpton’s house, and beautiful women’s beds in the world couldn’t turn the tide.more
Anne Roiphe’s (nee Ricardson) memoir covers only a small part of her life: her late teens through her 20s. This was the time in her life before she started writing herself, when she was dedicated to propping up the male authors in her life. This book may well appall many readers, particularly young women. But this was the 1950s and early 1960s. In the writing world of the time, women were not the artists but the muses and the caretakers. The male authors Roiphe writes of are all irresponsible alcoholics who sleep around endlessly, to the point that George Plimpton tells her that he may not remember having slept with her a couple of years down the road; she finds out later he was right. A Park Avenue girl, the author, enthralled with modern literature, decided to throw over the ideals of her parents and live a Bohemian life. While socializing with some of the great writers of the time (Mailer, Styron, Terry Southern, Doc Humes), she ended up marrying a man who was sure he would soon join those stars in the firmament of literary greatness. He spent more time in bars, at parties and with prostitutes than he did at home and she accepted this as being what he needed to do ‘for his art’. He took the money she made, ate the food she provided and ignored her. He manages to stay around enough to get her pregnant with the daughter who is consistently left at home while her parent’s are at parties (usually not together) and who observes a stream of men in her mother’s bed. Thankfully, Roiphe eventually gets rid of the husband, finds a man who doesn’t drink himself into a stupor every night or have sex with any woman available, and finds her own writing ability that was put aside for so many years while she devoted herself to being available to male authors. Roiphe paints this picture unsparingly. She expects no pity for the way she was treated and makes no excuses for the things she did; she simple places the facts out there for us in a dry manner. This could not have been an easy book for her to write. I’m sure a number of people will condemn her for her actions back then, both feminists and moralists. She admits at the end that if she had it to do over, she would have lived her life differently. This was a fascinating book. The look inside the New York literary scene of the time is a real eye opener. I did have a problem with the structure; it jumps around in time constantly and was very hard to follow. But it was worth the effort.more
This short memoir is presented as a series of vignettes describing various scenes from Anne Roiphe’s life as a young socialite, lover, wife, and mother. To share intimate thoughts and actions from these tumultuous years is an act of bravery from a 75-yr-old feminist. There are few women who could describe the crazy 50’s and 60’s New York scene from the inside like this unflinching writer. I found it to be a perceptive re-assessment of her choice to be a muse to famous men. The stories are not in chronological order so the effect is much like her life in those years, perpetually in motion and flitting from person to person, experience to experience. The memoir includes a moving foreword by her daughter, Katie Roiphe. It seems telling that her daughter is referred to namelessly as “the child” during most of this book. Does she regret her early life? There is a resounding answer at the end of this story.more
Anne Roiphe is brutally honest about her cronies, friends, enemies and herself in the autobiographical work. She takes a long hard look at her life and how she lived it, but it's hard to tell how she felt at the end. My sense of her life was that it floated aimlessly in a sea of literary maleness, never quite as important as the men she was surrounded by. I think all her experiences made her the strong person she came to be, but at a questionable price.more
This is an intriguing, odd book. The author tells, in a disjointed, scene-shifting fashion, the story of her life from her late teens to her early thirties. She marries a playwright and becomes part of the young intellectual scene in New York in the fifties and early sixties. Author Roiphe brings the era to life with all its failed promise. It's amazing how different things were then. Roiphe falls in love with a man who is in love with himself; he doesn't bother to hide it. He drinks so heavily it's alarming; he gambles; he cheats; he squanders her money and ignores their child. He's a repellent personality with no sense of responsiblity. The modern reader is apt to become impatient with the whole thing, and wonder why Roiphe doesn't just ditch the guy and go on with her work. But, as the author makes very clear, she sees no role models for female authors (Cather and Woolf seem too alien to apply to herself); in an astonishing paragraph, we learn that she had never met a woman doctor or lawyer. She knew they existed, but not in her sphere. In this time and place, women were seen to be servers of men, and men, especially talented men, were granted almost god-like status, suitable objects of worship by the women they used and abused. How and why Roiphe breaks away from this self-destructive pattern makes up the arc of the book.There are one or two unusual aspects here: The author refers to her husband only as "Jack" and insists that he's a failed dramatist, yet he won an Obie. She calls her daughter "the child" almost always; she never mentions the child's name, and only calls her "the baby" or "my daughter" two or three times. As a mother, I found this somewhat offputting and yet interesting. She clearly loves her daughter deeply; why doesn't she use her name? And I noted that, with the exception of her ex-husband, all the authors she exposes are dead. I'm not saying that she's not telling the truth--I'm saying I thought she was still protective of authors still alive, in spite of their singular failings as human beings.Most of the book is written in short sentences, very reminiscent of Hemingway's style. I found this a very moving, and very disturbing exploration of a time and a way of life that has almost disappeared.Highly recomended if you are interested in the fifites or in feminist issues.more
This is a beautifully written memoir about the author's life in the 50's and early 60's when she was in her 20's. She, like many women of her generation, wanted to be part of the literary scene of the time, and could imagine no other way to do that than to become a male writer's caretaker/muse.The book gives a lovely, and, I assume, accurate portrait of that sort of life at that particular time. Roiphe and her talented, self destructive, alcoholic first husband were part of the scene that included writers such as Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, and William Styron. Lots of ego issues, jealousies of all kinds, sexual experimentation, and lots and lots of alcohol. The usual breakdowns, break-ups, and destructions follow. Roiphe admits that her behavior and the prevailing atmosphere they lived in damaged her daughter. The author is honest about this confused time. She was doubtful about her abilities as a writer, and wondered "how women married men who did not want to be writers, men who would be ordinary. What were these women doing with their lives?" It's hard to imagine a woman saying this today. What a difference 50 years has made in America.Eventually Roiphe remarries and does become a successful writer. She claims to feel no pity for her younger self who was "ready to live off the written words of someone else." I enjoyed and was fascinated with this memoir. The period of history is intrinsically interesting, and Roiphe's experiences seem somehow both unique to her as well as representative of an era.more
Anne Roiphe’s Art and Madness is less a memoir than a series of vignettes focusing on a very unsettled time in her life. She takes the reader back and forth in time as she moves from man to man, drama to drama, bad to worse. A child of the fifties, young Anne feels the only way to be a part of the literary world is to attach herself to male writers. And she does, again and again, be they single, married, alcoholic, mentally unstable, what have you. The dreamlike quality of Roiphe’s writing lulls the reader and the knowledge that she and her daughter made it out alive (if not entirely unscathed) dulls the horror of some of the situations they find themselves in. To say this book is “good” or “interesting” seems inadequate. Mesmerizing is perhaps the most apt description.more
This is a memoir covering about 10 years when the author was in her twenties, when she rejected the dullness of upper crust life and dedicated herself to the art of men. She describes a world of writers, artists, and actors emulating Hemingway in their alcohol, women and living full tilt. The people, famous and not, were intriguing but I most appreciated her close observation and ability to portray the scene. I was particularly impressed with her thoughts as she pulled herself out of the spell and chose to be a writer herself. My only complaint was that I found it hard to become emotionally attached to the author.more
I've become an avid fan of Anne Roiphe again, after a forty-year hiatus. The last fiction I read by Roiphe was Long Division back in the early 70s. But in the past few years I've been reading her various books of memoirs - EPILOGUE, 1185 PARK AVENUE, and now her latest, ART AND MADNESS. And let us not forget the new book's subtitle, because it is exceedingly apt: A MEMOIR OF LUST WITHOUT REASON. Who'da thunk the famously sedate fifties were filled with so much sex, drinking, sleeping around, visiting of prostitutes and, well, yeah, lust. Roiphe was born on Christmas Day 1935 and was raised under conditions of wealth and privilege, although her home life was plagued by parents who did not love each other, a philandering and cold father and all kinds of other unhappy stuff. That story is told in 1185 PARK AVENUE, all the way up through the dissolution of Roiphe's own first marriage and the deaths of her parents and brother. EPILOGUE is all about the grief-stricken period which followed the sudden death of her second husband, a marriage that had endured for forty years.ART AND MADNESS is quite a different kind of animal. It was written, perhaps, in response to repeated queries from her adult daughter Katie (also a writer, who penned the Foreword) about what Mom's life was like during her twenties. But I also got the feeling that, at 75-plus, Roiphe is beginning to fell time closing in, because, unlike the carefully crafted prose of the other two memoirs, this one is told in a kind of full-speed-ahead, stream-of-consciousness mode, in a broken, back-and-forth chronology jumping between the fifties and sixties. There are no chapter headings; each section is labeled only with a year, and may jump from high school to young-married/new-mother, then back to a college year, and so on. The style is often terse and short, almost Hemingway-esque in manner. I thought too of the simplistic style of another minor writer I remember from the 60s, Jonathan Strong and his debut book, TIKE AND FIVE STORIES - and a damn good book at that. Other readers, I have noticed, complained of two many "I's" in this book. I noticed this too, but I didn't feel it detracted in any way from the forward (or backward) flow of the narrative. It maintained a uniform speed, which was considerable for the entirety of the book. So I'm not going to 'dis' this stylistic change, because it's not worse, it's just different. And it works, because you feel the urgency to get the stories told; you also benefit from the lifetime of encyclopedic reading she's done and a hard-won wisdom she has gained in the intervening years. Because a younger writer could never have told the kind of story you read here.There is so much here that is so on-the-mark about coming of age in the 50s (and early 60s too). On dating, for example -"...I let Bill kiss me until his face was covered with lipstick. I let him put his hands on my breasts. I didn't let him do anything else, because I knew that if I did he would talk about me." Then she tells how at the end of the evening, at her door, he became "not the knight in shining armor," but a "predator," and how she didn't want to be "spoiled goods," as her mother warned her.There is a rather sad yet nearly comical description of her deflowering in a Barcelona tenement during an overseas college jaunt, by a would-be writer - a lover whose writing turned out to be so bad that she was glad to see the last of him.There is much here about the doomed-to-failure marriage to playwright Jack Richardson, a man described as entirely self-centered, alcoholic and deeply damaged. In fact he sounds like he may have had some form of Asperberger's in a time before that disorder had even been 'discovered.' A child results from this unfortunate union, which finally dissolved after six years. "The child" - which is the only way Roiphe ever refers to this baby here - ends up irreparably damaged herself, despite being adopted by Roiphe's second husband, a good marriage which lasted for over forty years.And then there are all the endless parties, happenings and orgies at which Roiphe was a frequent 'decoration' during her divorced years, all the adulterous affairs with married artists and writers from those crazy decadent years that were the 60s. She makes no apologies, but she's not particularly proud of any of it either, noting at the close of her narrative that she "would never do it again. Never." Many famous writers with whom she had dalliances are named here - almost all of them dead now, victims of alcohol, drugs, and too-much-too-soon - or in the case of her first husband, not enough; just failure. This is one hell of a ride, lemme tell ya. I found most of it positively riveting. If I have a complaint, it's that there is some redundancy here, stuff from the other two memoirs that is repeated. But if you only read this one, that's not anything you'll notice. And this is an excellent, blazingly honest slice-of-life from the artistic scene in NYC in the 50s and 60s. I will recommend it highly.more
It is always interesting when one writes a memoir about a period in their life long ago. Roiphe - a beautiful writer - seems to remember certain scenes very well. They spill from her pen onto the pages like tears. But what stands out for the reader is Roiphe's sadness about the entire time period of her life (late teens to her early 30s). Those are years that many people remember as being happy, lively, adventurous. Life is new, all experiences are fresh. Yet Roiphe remembers so much of that time with obvious pain. Her pain begins to slice through the reader's consciousness until there is discomfort in the audience.A woman reminiscing about life in the 1950s amongst men of letters and men of art brings to mind books such as Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters or perhaps Diane di Prima's Recollections of My Life as a Woman. Both Johnson and di Prima lived in similar times as Roiphe, a time before the real advent of women's liberation. Yet Roiphe's memoir holds none of the toughness and grit of di Prima and Johnson. Perhaps it is because Roiphe's socio-economic background was so different from theirs. Read this book to experience Roiphe's beautiful, gentle, eggshell-thin writing that almost breaks one's heart. Read this memoir to reflect on what women's lives were like in that era when one felt compelled to choose between one's own art and a man. Be prepared, however, for a certain unreality that may be difficult to grasp for some: the author grew up in a privileged household and it may be hard to empathize with many of her youthful exploits, even the ones that pull on our emotions and remind us we are alive. Roiphe's privileged background seems - throughout the memoir - to make her difficult to understand. Most of all, her yearning not to marry a stockbroker or play golf but to lead the life of an artist somehow rings false, particularly because she seems rarely capable of being without a man in her life. Being married and having security seems more important than anything in her life, including her child. However, once she found the man and obtained the security, she went on to have a successful life as a writer. The problem is that many may find that her lack of real financial struggle puts her in a different class from many of the women who struggled to build careers in art and literature during that era. Gorgeous writing is worth a lot, but many may find it hard to identify or empathize with the writer.more
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.]more
If you can imagine Betty Draper's second husband being Jack Kerouac, then you would sort of have the picture of what this gorgeously written memoir is like. Anne Roiphe perfectly captures the New York City literary scene in the sixties, still a time when women put their dreams on hold in order to help the men in their lives realize their dreams. Powerful stuff.more
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