THE TOWER by Marguerite Steen


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The new Steen novel tackles, somewhat more directly than in The Woman in the Back Seat, the problem of the artist in search of his place in the scheme of life. This time her central character is Tom Proctor, an English artist, who is faced with the inability to continue painting the kinds of things on which his name is built -- and equally the inability to find a market, or even a hanging, for his new work. Driven by fear of failure to meet his responsibilities, - his wife, Antonia, whom he deeply loves, and their defective child, who was gradually disintegrating into little more than an animal- Tom drinks heavily, antagonizes his friends, and then finds himself a succes fou with an extravagant gesture for a friend- wall paintings done in a frenzy of alcoholism. From this comes a chance to do the murals for a tower, dating back to the crusades, in southern France- the murals to be based on designs sketched by a Frenchman, Mesurat, who is the craze of the moment, but who knows himself incapable of executing the work. Tom wavers between accepting the commission -- or taking a teaching job, with the child's welfare the deciding issue. And then the child dies- Antonia and Tom go to the Maritime Alps -- and the job gets underway against a rather exotic, surrealist background of phoney intellectuals, patronizers of the arts. Their marriage totters-as Tom is torn by doubts of how the child died; Antonia goes off on her own; a shallow affair diverts Tom emotionally for a time. Just what is the outcome of the project- with Tom given no credit, Mesurat reaping all, and just how the marriage debacle is saved- makes holding- if not too significant- entertainment. There's something of a suggestion of Cary's The Horse's Mouth in the various tangents.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1960
Publisher: Doubleday