The Great Man (novel)

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The Great Man: A Novel
First edition
Author Kate Christensen
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Doubleday (first edition)
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 320 pp
ISBN 0-385-51845-5
OCLC 84903243
813/.54 22
LC Class PS3553.H716 G74 2007

The Great Man: A Novel is a 2007 novel by American author Kate Christensen. It won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, beating nearly 350 other submissions and earning Christensen the $15,000 top prize.[1]


The story takes place five years after the death, at 78, of celebrated painter Oscar Feldman, the "great man" of the title. Two competing biographers, both working to document the life and times of a man who made his fortune painting nude women, turn for information to the women who had shared his life: his wife, his mistress, and his sister, who is also a painter.

Oscar Feldman was married to Abigail, the daughter of a rich Jewish family. They have a son who has autism.

For many years Oscar had an affair with Teddy. Together they have twin daughters, Ruby and Samantha. Ruby never married whereas Samantha is married and has children.

Oscar´s sister Maxine was quite successful as a painter earlier, but later was almost forgotten by the art community. Her brother had always been more famous than Maxine, which was quite ironic: Oscar became well known in the art world for a diptych of two female nudes, Helena and Mercy. Helena was actually painted by Maxine. It was a picture of then lesbian lover.


Janet Maslin, writing in The New York Times, calls The Great Man "mischievous" and found it "a gentler book than The Epicure’s Lament. .. It’s also a wise and expansive one, and it allows its characters to flourish in unexpectedly rewarding ways."[2] The San Francisco Chronicle, on the other hand, found it "a regular catfight of unlikable characters." and concluded "Without a doubt, Christensen has a knack for the piquant turn of phrase. Unfortunately, she wields her wands far too frequently and suffocates her characters before they've had a chance to earn our sympathies. In the end, the verbal burlesque is simply too much."[3]

The Great Man has also been reviewed by Library Journal,[4] BookList,[5] The Austin Chronicle,[6] Kirkus Reviews,[7] and Publishers Weekly,[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thompson, Bob (13 March 2008). "Behind Every Great Man..." Washington Post. 
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 6, 2007). "Books of the Times: A Celebrated Artist Dies, Then His Life Gets Difficult". New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  3. ^ Koch, Elizabeth (August 13, 2007). "Book review: 'The Great Man' by Kate Christensen". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  4. ^ "The great man". Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. Retrieved February 4, 2017. A solid title; for most fiction collections. 
  5. ^ "The Great Man: Reviews". Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  6. ^ Resnick, Sofia (August 17, 2007). "Book Review: Readings". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved February 4, 2017. Kate Christensen's fourth book, The Great Man, is reminiscent of that particular breed of novel that can only be weaved and welded by a true artisan: where the setting is discreet yet perfectly suited to the occasion and where the characters jump out of the confines of their hardback dwelling and linger with the reader long after reading has ended. 
  7. ^ "The Great Man". Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus Media LLC. June 15, 2007. Retrieved February 4, 2017. A joyful art-world romp from Christensen (The Epicure's Lament, 2004, etc.) that allows aging women to come across as sexy. 
  8. ^ "The Great Man". Publishers Weekly. PWxyz LLC. May 21, 2007. Retrieved February 4, 2017. this is an eloquent story posing questions to which there are no simple answers: what is love? what is family? what is art? 

External links[edit]