The Artist's Wife: A Novel

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9780805066708: The Artist's Wife: A Novel

An elegant reimagining of the life of Alma Mahler, the lovely, aristocratic fin-de-siècle composer who abandoned her own art to become the inspiration and collector of geniuses.

At the turn of the century, "the most beautiful girl in Vienna" stood at the threshold of a promising musical career. But instead, she turned her considerable talents to becoming a freelance muse. Passionate, fickle, brilliant, and alcoholic, she conquered a series of difficult geniuses, including the composer Gustav Mahler (whom she sent to Freud for marriage counseling); the architect Walter Gropius, who went on to found the Bauhaus movement; the writer Franz Werfel, author of The Song of Bernadette; and the revolutionary painters Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka.

Deftly bling period detail and modern sensibility, Max Phillips presents the bold, unapologetic Alma, who narrates her own provocative story, bringing to life the luminaries of her era as she tells of her triumphs in the fading elegance of Central Europe's beau monde, her flight from Hitler's Anschluss, and her exile in golden-age Hollywood. A glittering, darkly sensual novel, The Artist's Wife turns the lens of history upon the nature of inspiration, ambition, and love.

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About the Author:

Max Phillips is the author of the highly acclaimed novel Snakebite Sonnet. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Village Voice, and The Threepenny Review. He lives in New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

Alma Mahler Gropius, the "wild brat" of fin-de-siecle Vienna, is the graceless subject of Phillips's (Snakebite Sonnet) bitingly sarcastic historical novel. The fetching and full-figured daughter of a celebrated landscape painter and a self-sacrificing lieder singer, Alma Shindler had little education, undeveloped musical talent dulled by a hearing defect and lifelong laziness, but a lot of spunk when it came to attracting admirers. Enamored of Nietzschean ideals and anti-Semitism, she could count among her lovers or husbands the director Max Burckhard, artists Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, Wagner interpreter and composer Gustav Mahler, Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius and author Franz Werfel. In Phillips's version, Alma recounts her long and eventful life from the grave ("Death, also, I find to be a disappointment") with a prefacing remark that sets the chatty, ill-tempered tone for the rest of the narrative: "I was awfully interested in myself when I was alive." Phillips's well-informed presentation of the historical milieu is overpowered by the self-centered sensuality of his protagonist, who comes across as a spoiled and mean-spirited Moll Flanders. "I wanted to be with a man as awful as myself," she muses early on. At first, the tone is refreshingly astringent, but as the novel proceeds, Alma's exploits become increasingly grating, and the reader comes to believe that even Phillips can't abide his anti-heroine. Yet Alma's forthright narration succeeds in conveying the personality of a complex, indomitable woman who behaved "more like a man than a woman," fascinated Vienna's art world and, later, Hollywood's expatriate colony, and who lived life exactly as she wished, bravely and without hypocrisy. Agent, Henry Dunow.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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