Portrait of the Artist

Simon Mason, Author Putnam Publishing Group $19.95 (205p) ISBN 978-0-399-13605-4
Henry Hippolytus Fluck, an artist whose ambition is to paint the Great English Nude, is a slovenly, fat, pontifical genius with body odor. Or so we are led to believe by ``S.J.,'' the erudite, drunken, suicidal art critic who narrates this moderately amusing study of obsession and self-delusion. S.J. believes that Fluck, his ex-college roommate, is having an affair with his uncommunicative wife, Poppet. The affair may be all in S.J.'s imagination, but a murder will result from this triangle of sorts. Much of the fun derives from seeing through the tissue of S.J.'s lies, self-deceptions and misrepresentations; his deliciously apt allusions to artists ranging from Botticelli to Klimt are also a source of pleasure. But Mason, an editor at Oxford University Press, does not develop the subsidiary characters, and reader interest in S.J.'s cultured, half-demented rant wanes. Published to acclaim in England, this belabored first novel bristles with a sardonic wit that loses some of its bite in the transatlantic sea-change. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991
Release date: 03/01/1991
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