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Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason (2011)

by Anne Roiphe

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8427233,822 (3.69)4
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.



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What needs to be kept in mind while reading "Art and Madness" by Anne Roiphe is the time period. One may cringe at what the narrator allows herself to be subjected to as a result of the culture of 1950's and 60's America, however the flip side of the coin is that one also admires her for her honesty and self-awareness in the midst of this period, as well as her intelligence and, probably most important, her desire to ultimately get beyond the position society has pinned her to. She ends up doing exactly what she had cheered and supported men to do for so many years...write, and in doing so, becomes herself what she so desperately wanted her spoiled, selfish men to become...an artist. What I initially took for choppiness, Roiphe's writing style is frank and forthcoming, composing a memoir that provides a fascinating glimpse into a poignant moment of time when the beginning of the evolution of gender politics interestingly coincides with America finally assuming it's own artistic authority. ( )
  laughingsky | Nov 24, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The time period written of is immensely interesting as a pivotal cultural time; women in particular accepted behavior in men that would now scream emotional abuse. I find the author courageous in releasing this memoir - the memories aren't of accomplishments, but moral failings, and she acknowledges them as such. Roiphe had unique access to the world of the literary esteemed of the time, and I appreciate that she shared her perspective, with an honesty about her own choices that I liked. Opening herself to judgement, she is frank, and the disjointed chronology echoed actual memory. ( )
  Elysabeth | Nov 15, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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? ( )
  sentimental13 | Aug 4, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
'Art and Madness' tells the story of Anne Roiphe's life in the 60s, where she co-existed with the creme of the literary crop. Part of me was fascinated by the tales of the famous men Roiphe was attached to... but a larger part of me was frustrated by the way she let herself be treated by these men. She's obviously an intelligent woman, but time and time again she puts herself in a position to be used for the sake of "Art". While 'Art and Madness' is an interesting look at a bygone era, I found it left me more unsettled then inspired.
1 vote GondorGirl | Jul 29, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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.... ( )
  rmharris | Jul 2, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
In “Art and Madness,” Ms. Roiphe is sharply perceptive about the flesh-and-blood people around her. And she is witty about the ones who live in her imagination.
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1953:Fifth Avenue in New York City - I walk past the bronze statue of Atlas holding the world on his shoulders.
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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.

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.
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