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A COMPLICATED MARRIAGE: My Life With Clement Greenberg ~Janice Van Horne

A Complicated Marriage:  My Life With Clement Greenberg is a memoir written by Janice Van Horne starting with her at age 21 and just graduating from Bennington College and moving into her first apartment in New York City.  The book opens at a swish party describing Van Horne, surroundings and the guests.   This is the moment when she meets Clement Greenberg, the now famous art critic.  It is the start of the era of  Modern Art and this body of work.  Most of the artists are still at the “starving” artist’s stage but those on Greenberg’s friends list are going to be the top of the line big names and money makers of this particular period of time.

One is going to glimpse into the lives of some of these artists but that is actually part two of the book.  The first part of the book is about how Greenberg, the much older man, and Van Horne  get married and then spend weekends with all these artists at the artist’s homes.  7 major players get their own chapters including Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. Greenberg is good friends with these two people the connection is examined.  The Greenberg’s have a rather large collection of the paintings and sculptures of the artists, which some people said were bribes for great reviews by Greenberg. The book is not actually a biography of Greenberg; I do think art history majors would enjoy parts of this book about his personal life and friendships because it offers a different perspective.

One of the primary currents of the story is how a young girl with no plans, no great ambitions, and an open marriage learns to define herself and find a life purpose.  She is not much of a cook, they do not have a regular income, and she is not a caregiver/traditional woman.  Actually she is a German heritage child, who has been abandoned by alcoholism and departure by the men in her early life, who has a rather “airy” beautiful mother, and extended family which attacks and loudly distances themselves from her for marrying a Jew raised in the Southern United States.  She has married someone who actually loves her and is willing to care for her, likes her brashness, and insists that she handle the money in their lives.

She notes often that there are artist’s wives who handle their partner’s businesses and estates well, and there are those which fall down on the job and let other’s steal from the artist.  This management turns out to be her strong talent and in hindsight her real career and gives her the opportunity to pay for analysis, acting classes and be in the theater, an editor of Madison Avenue magazine, a play write, and finally the person who establishes the collection of her spouse and his papers are prepared for becoming a part of a historic era and a library.

I could really identify with Van Horne’s journey to her authentic self and when through a terrible Ponzi scheme she and her daughter lost nearly all their funds and future, I was happy she was able to testify in court and get some satisfaction along with her credit rating restored including an opportunity to move forward.  After years of affairs, divorce and remarriage, she finally understood the kind of caregiver she could become and took charge of that role as Greenberg was dying.  I believe she must be near 80 as she is writing her volume, and she is still very much in control, but less tense and insecure as a person.

A COMPLICATED MARRIAGE was a good read and I am positive those who like to figure out what is going on behind the scenes and the gossipy side of life will love this book.   I got a bit tired of the New York, power trippy, snobby analysis of other people and how they lived their lives. It was shallow reading and name dropping.  I really could not connect with her perception of poor/poverty that she experienced.  Yes, I suppose having to make curtains, purchase clothing from SEARS, and going to all the correct schools through Bennington College (the most expensive college in the nation) on scholarship was hard to deal with in her context of wealth and entitlement; and yet, there was always money for cars, education, society and lots and lots of alcohol – not to mention art and trips to Europe as the lecturer’s bored wife.

If you like memoir and learning about the art scene of the 50s and 60s, A COMPLICATED MARRIAGE is a read you will enjoy.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.

tlclogoI was provided with a proof copy of this book by TLC online book tours and Counterpoint Publishing.

Related Reading:  Under the top tab Recommended Reading you might also find more books you wish to read and enjoy.

On Reading Memoir
Confessions of Joan The Tall
When Women Were Birds

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16 Responses to “A COMPLICATED MARRIAGE: My Life With Clement Greenberg ~Janice Van Horne”

  1. Alien Ghost Says:

    Hi patricia,

    I guess depending on the perspective we all have complicated marriages! LOL

    It is always interesting to learn how some people manage to find their way and purpose in life, specially when we consider how many people go through life without even getting interested in developing and growing a life.

    Alien Ghost recently posted..The Girl In My HeadMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Maybe all marriages are interesting – this one was about OPEN MARRIAGE and all the affairs and interesting ways that lead this couple through their time together.

    It took this writer a long life to find her niche but she was good at it when she got there. Good to read about a person’s journey and process of discovery
    Patricia recently posted..A COMPLICATED MARRIAGE: My Life With Clement Greenberg ~Janice Van HorneMy Profile

  2. Judy Croome (@judy_croome) Says:

    This is not really the type of read I enjoy, but IN THE GARDEN OF STONE looks like a very good read – so good, in fact, I’ve just bought the Kindle edition by clicking through on the photo in your blog post! :)
    Judy Croome (@judy_croome) recently posted..Tattoo Tuesday 1My Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Sometimes I am glad I am on a book tour because I get a proof copy of a book and need to figure out what I am going to say about the book, because I often would not pick up some of these books at all – This was not my favorite book on this tour and yet I was happy to have read it and learned of her journey.

    I think you will very much enjoy IN THE GARDEN OF STONE….it is so beautifully written the details down to the leaves on the plants are not to be missed.

    Enjoy and thank you for clicking off my site :)

  3. Talon Says:

    This is a case of me NOT wanting to know how the other half lives. Besides, her version of a lousy life closely resembles my real and happy one. :)

    Patricia Reply:

    This book caused me to watch the movie about Jackson Pollack and Lee Krasner, because the author said the movie is all wrong about their lives and was played like they were. It was interesting to compare notes.

    I also think it was helpful that my Aunt who lived in NYC was so knowledgeable about the arts and the various museums and structures of the art world and took me on lots of tours.

    This world seemed so negative … I love my simple life and all my social action activities I know about the happiness of which you speak

  4. suzen Says:

    Hi Patricia,
    I’ve read a couple of your latest reviews – all excellent of course, and I wonder if I didn’t just read myself out since I haven’t read a thing since last November. Kinda busy with other stuff! The move up North has really kept me occupied well past the time I’d thought it would. And now, with spring, and activities starting up around here, I’m all about playing as much as I can!

    I’m going to take a break from blogging and I see whether or not it fits in my “new life” or not. I blogged ahead for months and all my blogs have printed out from the schedule and I’ll be darned if I’m not at all inspired to keep it going right now. We’ll see how it goes. Regardless, I’ll always keep in touch!
    suzen recently posted..The Color Pink – The Cancer Cure?My Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I know the feeling and I had to just take a couple of months off of blogging to get to just reviewing books…I love to read. I do not think I will try to review 2 books a week again – once a week is enough,

    I think whenever we make big changes in our lives we need to play and re-sort about what we want to do next. Reading is how I play since I do not even have enough funds to go out to lunch – it gives me the world and imagination.

    Yes we must keep in touch – I love our conversations and idea sharing. I notice that all the creative people take breaks and renew.

  5. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Patricia – Not my cup of tea either, but I appreciate that you took the hit for the rest of us :)

    Patricia Reply:

    Thanks Laurie,

    I think this was a great exercise for the author and she was influenced by Carolyn Hellman’s work which I have also reviewed and enjoyed very much. ( Not sure I have the last name correct) which I got from the memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake – also another review…

    I think it is good for women to write memoirs and get a perspective on their lives and their significance.

    Patricia Reply:

    The Last Gift of Time, Life after 60 by Carolyn Weilbrun http://patriciaswisdom.com/2012/07/the-last-gift-of-time-life-beyond-sixty-carolyn-weilbrun/

    and Anna Quindlan wrote the Candles and cake book under recommended reading tab

  6. Sam Juliano Says:

    A COMPLICATED MARRIAGE is not all peaches an dcream that’s for sure. But certainly it’s a work that educates through some of life’s pain and for others still one of hope and inspiration. Beautifully-written assessment Patricia!

    Patricia Reply:

    thank you for your kind words. I was glad this book was on the tour this spring because I am sure I would not have read it otherwise and I enjoyed the read. Wish it had shared a bit more about Greenberg’s assessments and collection, but I suppose I would just need to go to the museum where his lectures and books are stored to find that.

    One of my aunts was quite a patron of the arts when she lived in New York City and I had been to many of the galleries, museums and openings during the 5 years I lived in the area.
    Patricia recently posted..A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA: A Novel ~Anthony MarraMy Profile

  7. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours Says:

    It sounds like it took a long time for her to understand and fully accept and embrace who she really is, but that she IS living her own life now. What a fascinating life story!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

    Patricia Reply:

    Heather J
    Yes a very interesting story…Thank you for coming by!

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