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A Complicated Marriage: My Life With Clement Greenberg Hardcover – March 27, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582438218
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582438214
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for A Complicated Marriage

"Janice Van Horne’s new memoir reveals a fresh perspective that sheds light on the interior life of Clement Greenberg, not only as the esteemed art critic but as a husband, lover, and off and on companion of nearly 40 years." —East Hampton Star


Praise for The Harold Letters

“Janice Van Horne has created a little treasure from these letters . . . original in every way.” —Helen Frankenthaler, Partisan Review

“The Harold Letters distinguishes itself from other, more fallacious personal histories; his honesty unabashedly reveals the kind of unspeakable, grandiose desires that we all have for ourselves.” —The New York Times Book Review

“In addition to chronicling Greenberg’s zigzag journey to his true vocation, this fascinating volume also offers graphic snapshots of his busy life, vivid evocations of the urban American landscape, and what may be one of the best, most frank depictions of what it was like to be a struggling Jewish intellectual in the U.S. during the Great Depression.” —Raphael Rubinstein, Art in America

About the Author

In recent years Janice Van Horne edited two books assembled from Clement Greenberg’s archive at the Getty Research Library; The Harold Letters and Homemade Esthetics, designated a New York Times book of the year. She lives in New York City, in the same apartment she and Clem moved into in 1960.

Customer Reviews

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You will read this book with great interest.
Lucy from Brooklyn
Her humorous perspective on her situation makes the story especially engaging, and her book establishes a high-water mark for memoirs.
Judith Searle
A better explanation of who these people were would have given the book a big boost.
Jennifer Hartling

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Allison on June 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
When I first requested A Complicated Marriage from TLC Book Tours (thanks!), I did so because I love biographies. Although I am not well-versed in the art world, I thought that I would branch out and try something a little bit more "cultural" than my typical reads, but I was a little scared that it would be over my head. Not so! While the book is a slow read - not because it's boring or difficult - and it took me longer to get through than I had expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unlike what I had initially expected, the book is less about the art world and more about Jenny and famed art critic's Clem Greenberg`s relationship. Throughout her life with Clem, Jenny felt out of place in his art world. This was a bonus for the reader because she "dumbed" down the art world for the non-arty reader. This was a good thing for me because my fear of being lost in terms of who's who wasn't a big issue. Spanning several decades, A Complicated Marriage follows what was, in the 1950′s, an unlikely marriage between an art critic and a book lover. The road was bumpy from the beginning; Jenny's family was aghast at both the age difference between her and Clem and the fact that he was Jewish. To be honest, I was downright outraged while reading the scenes that transpired because they actually happened.

The most interesting part of their marriage, however, was that it was open. I had to laugh in the beginning when Jenny mentioned that, while Clem had brought this up, she assumed she would be enough and that it wouldn't truly be an issue. It's not that this was all that funny in a haha way, but rather goes to the timeless myth that the right woman can change a man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lucy from Brooklyn on April 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a very courageous confession, maybe even shocking to many, but told in an interesting manner on the background of great changes in culture, art, and customs. The personal development of the author inspires admiration and even envy. The book can be treated as a guide for people in search of their place in the world. These rules were right in those years and continue to date. You will read this book with great interest. I highly recommend it.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William F. Bacon on February 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow. What a life story. I was captured from the first pages. Janice Van Horne's memoir is packed with more living than most of us will ever experience. It is quite a journey and a very moving one. I loved her descriptions of life as a newly minted Bennington grad who suddenly finds herself living as the wife of The Greatest Art Critic of his Generation, spending weekends with Jackson Pollack, etc., but also her own story of coming of age during the Women's Movement. While she and Clem will separate, divorce, and remarry, they are never really apart. It is truly a love story.
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Format: Paperback
This book had lovely moments but the subject matter was not something that I found myself incredibly interested in.

The courtship between Janice and Clem Greenberg was the section I enjoyed reading the most. They were 20 years apart in age and miles apart in experience. Janice's family was less than thrilled about their daughter marrying an older, Jewish man.

Towards the middle of this book I found myself skimming. The author details her thoughts on a smattering of artistic couples/individuals. If you have an interest in the art world of the 50's and 60's this could be amusing. Unfortunately, I rarely recognized the names. A better explanation of who these people were would have given the book a big boost.

A Complicated Marriage did pick up some steam towards the end. Janice and Clem had an open marriage that was intriguing to read about. The most gratifying? Reading about how Janice came into her own.

While well written, and full of information, this book didn't speak to me as a reader.

Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader
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Format: Hardcover
Janice Van Horne was so young when she met Clement Greenberg, complete with all the insecurities that come along with being in one's early 20's. I was struck by what an unlikely pair they seemed. She points out they were alike "in the ways that mattered," and the comfort they found in each other's presence shines throughout the book.

Their relationship begins in the mid-50's, when women still had very distinct, traditional roles. Van Horne adheres to these expectations, but at the same time pushes (and breaks) them. I liked that about her. Over the decades, women become more liberated and it becomes easier for Van Horne to find herself and fit in. She overcomes the stigma of her "mother-the-martyr's daughter" and settles into her own identity with confidence and independence, especially after realizing she needed to learn to "outwit the lure of losing [herself] in a man." In this sense, her memoir is much like a coming-of-age story.

Van Horne sometimes writes with an overly dramatic flair. Also, the book could have been a tad shorter. She goes into detail about a number of more mundane aspects of daily life; at first this was charming, but after a while it slowed the pace and I started to feel bogged down.

I enjoyed the vignettes of their friends in the abstract expressionist movement: Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Hans and Miz Hoffman, Jack and Mabel Bush, Franz Kline, and more.

I'm not sure theirs was a "complicated" marriage as much as it was unconventional. At times, very unconventional! Yet I never found myself doubting their love for each other.

If Amazon allowed for half-star ratings, I'd have marked this one 3.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.
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