Art and Madness: A Memoir of Love Without Reason

Anne Roiphe, Author
Anne Roiphe, Doubleday/Talese, $23.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-53164-1
Reviewed on: 01/10/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Roiphe's sharp, dazzling memoir of her literary youth in late 1950s and early 1960s New York City contains a dark story of untenable marriages, alcoholism, and outrageous sexism. Raised on Park Avenue in New York City, a graduate of Sarah Lawrence in 1957, Roiphe (Epilogue) was devoted to nonconformity at all costs, art worth dying for, and a brilliant if vaguely envisioned future "as a muse to a man of great talent." Married early to a hard-drinking, egotistical playwright, she typed his plays and supported him with secretarial work, attended parties where guests indulged in adultery and alcohol with equal enthusiasm and self-sabotage. Her marriage dissolved, and saddled with a small child, Roiphe had affairs with Paris Review founders "Doc" Humes and George Plimpton, among others, and finally found a new father for her child, who happened to be a doctor. Roiphe's narrative moves in punchy, spare episodes, nonchronologically and erratically, veering from past to present tense, and requiring effort on the part of the reader. Yet she is a masterly writer: her work presents vivid, priceless snapshots of the roiling era of Communist hysteria, faddish homosexuality, male privilege, and the heartbreaking fragility of talented men and their dreams of fame. (Mar.)