The Italian Teacher follows a legendary artist and his perpetually reaching son, Pinch.
Pinch’s dad is a total dick.
Bear Bavinski is a famous artist, on par with the greats. Comparisons to the legacies of Picasso, Gogan, and others are thrown about as if Bear stands as their equal.
Like many of the great artists, though, Bear is a complicated person in day-to-day life. He’s a serial philanderer, marrying and disposing of wives as if they are bright flashes, fizzling out quickly. With each, he has more children, starting new families and dividing his attention and loyalties further and further.
His attention is like lifeblood to those under his gaze. They come alive in their endeavors to please him, then wither when he turns his gaze elsewhere. Pinch, his son, struggles with this push and pull his entire childhood and young adulthood.
Many of Bear’s children don’t even have his private phone number. The only way Pinch is able to stay in his good graces is through unwavering adoration and not asking him for anything.
When Pinch thinks he, too, could be an artist and follow in his father’s footsteps, Bear responds with, “You’ll never be an artist, kid.” And that’s the theme for Pinch’s entire childhood and adulthood. He’ll never reach any of his ambitions or potential. He’ll always live in Bear’s shadow.
What I wonder is whether Pinch’s story is ultimately a tragedy or a triumph.
Pinch never achieves what he set out to do. He doesn’t become the artist or even proxy art expert that he envisioned. He spends years pining after the lost love of his life. He never gets the validation he seeks from his father.
Conversely, he does achieve some sort of greatness, albeit secretly. His quiet life makes big waves, both in the art world and in the lives of those he loves.
It’s a wonderful masterpiece of a book.
(I know, I know – “masterpiece” + art book review = cliche. But I couldn’t resist)
The Italian Teacher
By Tom Rachman
Published March 2018
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Music credit: YouTube