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The Great Man Paperback – May 13, 2008

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The Great Man + The Epicure's Lament + In the Drink: A Novel
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277343
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The Great Man is as unexpectedly generous as it is entertaining. . . . Wise and expansive. . . . Christensen is a witty observer of the art universe.” —The New York Times “Christensen's writing is clear-eyed, muscular, bitingly funny, and supremely caustic about the niceties of social relations, contemporary American culture, and sexual politics.” —O, The Oprah Magazine “These characters are wonderfully developed and break the stereotype of the aging female protagonist. Christensen . . . boldly has raised the bar.” —USA Today "Nimble, witty and discerning, Kate Christensen is single-handedly reinvigorating the comedy of manners with her smart and disemboweling novels of misanthropes, cultural and aesthetic divides, private angst, social ambition and appetites run amok." —Chicago Tribune

About the Author

Kate Christensen is also the author of the novels In the Drink, Jeremy Thrane, and The Epicure's Lament. Her essays and articles have appeared in various publications including Salon, Mademoiselle, The Hartford Courant, Elle, and the best-selling anthology The Bitch in the House. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

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Customer Reviews

The women characters, the plot, and the writing are all very interesting and compelling.
Daniel Holland
I liked some of the characters (and disliked others) but was often annoyed by their lack of consistency and the falseness of the scenes and the conversations.
Nora Levine
The author offers great insight regarding the subtleties of the artistic mindset, including the demands and requirements placed on others.
J. Grattan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
A cursory glance at the title indicates that this is a book about a man. It is, and it isn't. Of course, the man of the title, Oscar Feldman, rather the late Oscar Feldman, a figurative painter, plays a role. But the starring parts are given to three women, Teddy, his mistress; Abigail Feldman, his widow; and Maxine Feldman, his sister. Each is being interviewed by two biographers who hope to tell Oscar's true story.

According to his obituary, Oscar died at the age of 78 after a prodigious career, which was totally devoted to the painting of female nudes. He remained apart from others in the artistic world, and once wrote, "The female body is the ultimate expression of truth and beauty..." His works were characterized by bold brush strokes, and came to be highly collectible.

After reading this, one can easily see why two biographers, Henry Burke and Ralph Washington, were intrigued, determined to find out the truth about Oscar Feldman. What better place to start than with his mistress, Teddy?
Now 70-some she is still an attractive woman, angular with chin length white hair and a ready wit. She's a bit of a tease and gives her friend, Lila, a start when she admits "I wouldn't mind seeing my old carcass in bed with a nubile forty-year-old body." She's come to terms with who she is now and what her life has been. She gave birth to Oscar's twin daughters, Ruby and Samantha, and basically raised them alone. Yet, she loved Oscar, enjoyed tweaking him in front of a gathering so he would show off. She adored him...did she also manipulate him? She seems to have had the upper hand when she says that she could share him but he could not share her.

Maxine is quite a different story.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. K. Johnson VINE VOICE on October 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The style of this novel is very unique and hooks you from the start. I couldn't put it down. The four women who loved this (not-so) great man are so sensitively crafted by the author that you both, at once, admire them and question their devotion to such a hollow person as Oscar. The book also asks some important questions, such as what constitutes "great" art, who gets to decide, what role do women play in the art world, and how are we, as viewers, implicated in the social construction of the artistic genius.

Additionally, the inclusion of the two men writing separate biographies of the great man add tremendously to the story. The obituary and the two reviews at the end act as book ends to the story and add to its unique style. Bravo Ms. Christenson.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dmitri Priimak on September 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
Great idea for a book. The famous painter dies and his close lovers, admirers and daughters come in together due to the fact that at least two biographers are on the prowl. All this results in digging out well buried emotions and past deeds to light of the day. That is the basic plot, but what sets this novel apart is very direct and concise use of English. The author appears almost transparent, as she does not add un-plausible elements to enhance the prose. Personages in the book, mostly woman, seem to come to life, not in details of environment, but in their psychological exposure by the author. None appear flat and unremarkable, or one sided on good vs. bad scale and yet very different. One notable achievement of the book is how well mental states of participants of social interactions are shown. We are given a glimpse of how woman pick up non verbal cues and judge their partners. This is all done without any hint of author trying to be cute, which would have reduced it to a typical chick lit.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Hopkins on August 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading several sterling reviews and hearing about Christensen's Pen Faulkner Award, I was expecting a stronger dose of good reading. The first few chapters were engaging, offered intriguing characters and seemed headed in a promising direction. After some impressive build up, the story took a disappointing shortcut to a pretty lame denoument. Ms. Christensen's writing is vivid but her imagination for the sexuality of "older" women is uninsightful at best. What a wasted opportunity to tell a really captivating tale! She will understand this some day.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Taylor on June 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Great Man is a great book with great characters and a great flow of dialogue, drama, and spicy romance--all guaranteed to give great pleasure to the reader! I was reluctant to complete this great short novel because I knew if the story ended I would no longer be able to share in the bittersweet adventures of several great women whose lives I had become intimately involved in. I just wanted to read more and more.

In The Great Man the great Ms. Christensen creates characters who remind us of elderly women and men we have known in real life who have endeared themselves to us in spite of their idiosyncrasies, or perhaps because of them! Ms. Christensen`s characters come alive through a seamless sequence of encounters with each other, as well as intriguing minor characters, all of whom, for one reason or another, are forced to focus on "The Great Man" five years after he has died. Each has his or her own view on the amount of greatness this man possessed while alive.

I was reading this book as I was touring alone in Canada, looking forward to communing with the characters each evening before going to sleep. After finishing the book I began to feel suddenly lonely in my travels, and I finally realized it was because my extraordinary companions were no longer part of my trip! They were now packed away in my luggage, only cherished memories, along with those from Quebec City and Montreal.
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