Was Oscar Feldman a great man? Readers may arrive at this question repeatedly as events unfold in Kate Christensen's latest novel, The Great Man. The tale of this fictional artist, famous for his obsessive painting of non-idealized female nudes, begins Citizen Kane-style with a news story reporting his death and summarizing his life. Competing biographers, the youthful-yet-pallid Henry Burke and the intellectual Ralph Washington, set out to write the definitive story on the man. Ironically, the one-dimensional Feldman can only be fleshed out by the complex, surviving women who loved himAbigail, his wife of over 40 years, who mourns the loss of their housekeeper more than the loss of her spouse; Teddy, the wild, sexually adventurous, British mistress; and Maxine, the bitter older sibling. Though The Great Man could easily devolve into sitcom-style melodrama, Christensen (whose previous work includes The Epicure's Lament) manages to maintain an insightful rather than broad tone. Though Oscar Feldman was a man, it is the women in his story, recounting their lives with frank sexuality and openness, who are truly great.
Fri., Sept. 14, 7 p.m.