cover image The Art Fair

The Art Fair

David Lipsky. Doubleday Books, $22.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42610-7

The author of a short-story collection (Three Thousand Dollars) and a sociology of Generation X (Late Bloomers), Lipsky here weighs in with a tender but slight first novel narrated by a Manhattan teenager suffering from an overweening attachment to his mother. In a voice that is by turns keenly perceptive and mawkishly earnest, Richard Freely recalls his preadolescence in New York, when his mother, Joan, who has since struggled as an abstract painter, was for a brief spell the darling of the snooty 1970s art scene. After a bitter divorce, which sent Richard and his brother to L.A. to live with their father, her social and professional status faded. Blaming himself, Richard resolves to move into her one-bedroom apartment in SoHo and help jump-start her career, playing both her son and confidante and accompanying her to openings, where she is often ostracized. He ""finally breaks up with [his] mother"" at an artists' retreat in upstate New York, where Joan succeeds at winning back her old dealer, while Richard's own reconciliation with an estranged girlfriend allows him to acknowledge his disabling maternal attachment. The art-world background is drawn in broad, crayon-like strokes: it's a circus of fine cheese and wine, catty, social-climbing artists and arrogant critics and dealers who talk less of aesthetics than of fashion and status. But readers may appreciate Lipsky's understated style, both wide-eyed and satirical, with amusing ironic asides (""it seemed I lived on Brie, and even now, when I eat that cool, slimy food, something is triggered, and I look around for fear that I'm being judged ungenerously.""). (May)