Ann Rower, Author . Serpent's Tail $14 (256p) ISBN 978-1-85242-416-9

In this second novel by Rower (Armed Response), the artistic and social excesses of the New York School painters—Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem de Kooning and Elaine de Kooning—provide a welcome obsession for a painter in a midlife crisis. At the start of an East Hampton summer, the death of an old friend and fellow artist shocks the narrator and leads her to Green River Cemetery, where she comes upon the graves of many of the abstract expressionist painters, among them Lee Krasner and Elaine de Kooning. She begins to investigate the history of "the wives," convinced that there is a story there "about friendship and competition between women artists." As this interest stretches out over several years, it becomes more and more a way for the narrator to avoid her own failed career, her fears of aging and the disintegration of a 20-year relationship with her live-in boyfriend. The lesbianism with which she toyed as a girl resurfaces, and she embarks on a series of liaisons with younger women. Research on the book (entitled Lee and Elaine) takes up much of her time, but she is only interested in primary sources, the information she gathers is already well known and her surprise at the most mundane facts is improbable. Rower has nothing new to add about the relationship between Lee and Elaine save the fanciful supposition that they are ghosts "coming back as lesbians after all those years married to those macho art stars." The narrator, nameless throughout, remains a cipher. (Mar. 19)

Reviewed on: 02/25/2002
Release date: 00/00/0000
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