I recently read Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason. It was a book which I received free of charge from the publisher. It was fan-freakin'-tastic.
Seriously. I loved it.
Other than having a great title, this book is written with style, and a simple gracefulness. I am usually not a fan of non-fiction, including memoirs. This memoir, however, was one that I didn't want to put down.
For one thing, the subject matter is scintillating. This memoir deals with Roiphe's dedication to, and subsequent disillusion with, the literary art world in the '50s & '60s. This was a time in which men were still drinking with abandon, and striving to become the next literary great. Being this time period, and the art world, there is also a lot of discussion about sex, about love. Roiphe brings this world alive - its' pulse beats steady, and it breathes easily, and the reader slips into this world like a hand into a glove.
It was also my introduction to Roiphe. I am slightly abashed at the fact that I wasn't very aware of Roiphe's prolific-ness until becoming interested in this memoir. Now, I feel like I need to purchase every book she's written, because if they are as good as Art and Madness, I will be a very happy reader while devouring them. Roiphe is extremely intelligent. She grapples with issues on an intellectual and emotional level, and the reader can follow her train wreck of issues while still being awed at the fact that she is so smart. She also writes in a beautiful manner. Her writing in this memoir is slightly stream-of-consciousness - skipping around a bit in time, jumbling close together in run-on sentences, going to the brink of incoherent without ever quite losing that bright silver thread of narrative - and just lovely to read. Reading her memoir reminded me somewhat of Francesca Lia Block. Not because their writing is identical, but because with both women, I feel almost like I'm reading poetry while reading their prose.
I could babble on about this book for much longer, but I'm sure I would start to bore you (if I haven't done so already), so I will simply conclude my review with this recommendation: buy it. If the subject matter interests you at all, buy it. If you like strong, lyrical prose, buy it. If you like Anne Roiphe, buy it. If you are a fan of art, buy it. I seriously doubt you will regret it.