Frederic Tuten's The Green Hour

by Eric Kraft

The Green Hour is a painful and beautiful exploration of the heart and mind of Dominique, an art historian, child of a Montauk fishing family. Her passions are three: Poussin, a dilettantish narcissist named Rex, and Rex’s child, Kenji, whom she comes to love as her own.

Dominique’s fascination with Poussin begins in childhood and matures into an obsession; she probes the style and substance of his work throughout her life, though she never manages to complete the book she hoped to write about him. Her addiction to Rex begins in college. He’s tall, with thick red hair, and plays the part of radical, artist, or intellectual as the seasons change. He is, at heart, a philistine. He comes and goes through Dominique’s life, leaving when a passing interest becomes irresistible, always explaining, always apologizing, always claiming that their love transcends their separation, his absences, his other women. Her love for Kenji, her only fully requited love, begins at first sight. Kenji soon calls her maman. There is joy in Kenji’s love, but . . .

The theme of Poussin’s painting The Arcadian Shepherds is the omnipresence of death in life, even in Arcadia. If The Green Hour were a painting, it could be a Hopper, arranged with the formal coolness of Poussin, set in a café in the early evening hour when Paris used to drown itself in milky green absinthe. Its characters would be seated at separate tables, regarding one another sidelong, disconnected. Below the painting would be the legend, “Even in Paris there is sorrow.” The sorrows that Frederic Tuten depicts are “the sorrows that take your life away, first bit by bit and then with great stunning blows to the heart; no sea and horizon line, no painting or music, no meal, no sex, no walks hand in hand, no new kid gloves, even if they fit perfectly, can shield you or long console you.” He paints them with the sure hand of a Poussin of feelings.

 

—Eric Kraft

 

The Green Hour will be published in October by W. W. Norton and Company.

Tags:
Novels
BOMB 81
Fall 2002
The cover of BOMB 81
Share