Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Complicated Marriage: My Life With Clement Greenberg by Janice Van Horne

(Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book.)
about book:

Love, marriage, the New York art world, and a wife’s self-discovery.

A rare opportunity to experience the explosive and history-making New York art world of the 1950s thru the eyes of the young bride of Clement Greenberg, America’s most influential art writer.  In 1955, after meeting Clem at a party, 21-year-old Janice—who knows nothing about art—is soon catapulted into the inner circle of her husband’s world where she is surrounded by such larger-than-life personalities as Jackson Pollock, David Smith, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline…. More a witness than a participant, in time Janice begins the slow struggle to regain her sense of self as she steps beyond the ‘50s traditions of wife and mother in search of worlds of her own. Her journey takes us inside the experimental theater of OOB and the Actors Studio in the ‘60s, into the Madison Avenue men’s world of advertising, and the feminist movement of the ‘70s, to bi-coastal playwright in the ‘80s, to caregiver and widow in the ‘90s, and currently to book editor and writer.

Even as the country was changing during these heady decades, Janice was changing, and the marriage as well–from monogamy to a mutually compatible open marriage, and in the late ‘70s from a mutually compatible divorce to remarriage (to each other).  Beautifully written with humor and deeply felt honesty, A Complicated Marriage is an enduring love story that, as it draws back the curtain on the art scene and its iconic players, explores a woman’s self-discovery and redefines the meaning of a “good marriage.”

my thoughts:

Mixed feelings about this one.  On the one hand I enjoyed getting to know Janice Van Horne (aka Jenny), but on the other hand I didn't care for the name-dropping and insanely skewed idea of poverty.  I found her marriage with Clem (famed art critic, Clement Greenberg) to be interesting - she sort of seemed like she was along for the ride.  She had no idea of what she wanted to do, and so she embraced the art world that her husband introduced her to.  And, she endured the open marriage he proposed to her - for nearly forty years!  All the while, she tried to figure out who she wanted to be.

We get details on their relationship, artists, affairs, divorce, money, therapy, and her life post-Clem.  It was actually quite fascinating at times, that I couldn't stop reading.  However, sometimes I just found myself turning the pages to skip ahead to something a bit more interesting.  Its not that I didn't care to learn about the art world that consumed her marriage and life, but I didn't find all the name dropping to be that exciting.  Plus, the whingeing about not having money was tiresome, considering they traveled the world and bought loads of art.

Overall, I don't really have much to say about this book, except that I do believe it would hold the attention of someone obsessed with the art scene.  I suppose I would recommend it to art lovers and fans of memoirs.  I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it - I guess, this book just wasn't my cup of tea.

If you are interested in reading more reviews of A Complicated Marriage, check out the TLC Book tour website for the tour schedule here.  
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!


Audra said...

Thanks for the honest review -- I'm glad I passed on this one. I'm not super familiar with the art world and was afraid there'd be lots of name dropping and gossip -- stuff I wouldn't 'get'.

Beth said...

Bummer.. sounds interesting even if I wouldn't be into that sort of lifestyle. Sad that it wasn't a bit more fun!

And the complaints about money woes of the wealthy will only be tolerated when read when the character/individual recognizes the absurdity/experiences transformation. Ha!

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Audra, thanks ;) It was pretty interesting, even if you aren't immersed in the art world, but then again I found the name dropping to be rather irksome.

Beth, I agree - I was hoping it would have been more fun. Oh well. And, I know what you mean about complaints :)

The Relentless Reader said...

I have this one coming up and I'm crossing my fingers that I connect to it :)

trish said...

Sorry this one wasn't your cup of tea. Thanks for providing your thoughts as part of the tour!

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Trish, thanks for having me :)