Modern Reader

"Never trust anyone who has not

brought a book with them"

-Lemony Snicket

Novy's Son: The Selfish Genius - Karen Ingalls

I am familiar with Karen Ingalls’ work, having chosen this novel after reading Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  Since I read that book first, when I read Novy’s Son I was provided with a natural timeline of a family riddled by natural spirit, which, however creative or inspiring, seems to invariably place them in a position to be judged.  I was pleased to reacquaint myself with Novy, the son of the notorious artist Mr. Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  But years spent with a doting mother who was spurned by society and left unsupported by a career-obsessed father has made him cold.  Despite this, he and his wife have a son (and other children as well), the protagonist of this book, Murray Clark. 


It is an interesting journey to begin reading a character’s story when he or she is a child.  In a way, it is easier to understand the foibles of the protagonist once one has become familiar with his or her past. While Novy is labelled selfish and is considered a wholly unlikable character, it is made clear that there is no absence of love in his heart.  There is a history of disassociation in the men who precede him; each have a proclivity to rely on himself and his habits.  That being said, it is no shock that Murray exhibits that same self-defensive mode that keeps him at a safe distance from the world around him, even if this mode entails self-destruction.  The tenderness readers see in him as a child while he grows up in southern California leaves within the reader some hope that he is human after all and capable of showing compassion. 


I regard Karen Ingalls as a skilled writer, her style easily identifiable by its matter-of-fact tone.  What struck me as distracting, an error that affected the quality of my reading experience, was the random assortment of Herman Melville quotes.  In addition, the e-book formatting had no distinct paragraph spacing, which made the sudden appearance of a Melville quote even more jarring.  Technological structuring aside, the story is worth reading, although I suggest reading Davida first!