Better than expected, in the best way

Posted by Bel. The time is 6:50pm here in Wellington, NZ.

You can imagine my glee when I pulled this off the shelf.

After ashamedly abandoning such an adimirably pre-feminist text as "The Vindication of the Rights of Women", I felt pleased that I was now being dished up what surely promised to be a delicious piece of trash. I mean, lingerie! Hellooo!

And "Spending" did indeed deliver the goods. Lots of sex. Sex described both graphically and emotionally - none of this 'cut to a fluttering curtain' business. And lots of money too, fortuitously arriving from out of nowhere and the enjoyment of its luxuries. It's set in New York to boot; not that it is a specifically New Yorkian novel, but basically any reference at all is enough for me.

Most glorious thing of all is that book isn't really trashy at all. No sir! Mary Gordon has written a wonderful novel, rich and vivid, creating a dialogue between her character and the reader that is immediately companionable. The narrative is addressed personally, as if Monica, the vivacious and talented artist who finds unheralded success (and scandal) late in life, was a friend of yours, bringing you up to speed on the latest goss. Perhaps I missed some subtext where she is actually dead and writing to herself, not dead, in the past. Or something. But I don't think so.

Any lover of art will relish this book, as the descriptions of paintings and the painting processes are detailed and evocative. My art history is pretty weak (or specialised rather: quiz me on the pre-Raphaelites and Dada/Surrealist movement only. Bit of Kahlo and Posada too.), so I didn't recognise any of the 'great Masters' referred to in the novel, but it didn't matter. As with the descriptions of food and locations (hotels in Italy, upstate beaches), everything is brought beautifully to life.

But it's not the objects that are the stars of "Spending", but the people and the relationships. I've already written way too much, so I'll just say that I loved how family ties and an intimate couple were portrayed in such an honest (and warm) way.

3 thoughts on “Better than expected, in the best way”

  1. Oh. I just did an emergency amazon order to get a book to read on the plane on Thursday and would have gotten this except I hadn't read it yet and so got Wonder Spot, Melissa Banks' other novel.

    Also finally found a version of What is the What on USA amazon, that cost less to pay international shipping to get to me in the UK than any of the versions I have seen in the UK (hard-cover for a princely £25!! Not even Dave Eggers can get that out of me).

    Also ordered Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys. Just so's you know.

  2. All very exciting developments.

    I am soooo looking forward to hear your thoughts on What Is The What. And by the by, I think that proceeds from that book go to help the 'Lost Boys' of Sudan, so um, yeah. Hah!! I borrowed the book off a friend so I can't talk.