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The damage overbearing fathers do to sons

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The Italian Teacher. By Tom Rachman. Viking; 352 pages; $27. Riverrun; £13.99.

TOM RACHMAN’S latest novel is the story of a great man and the wreckage greatness leaves in its wake. It chronicles the life and legend of Bear Bavinsky, a painter of enormous appetites and all-consuming ego, largely through the eyes of his son, Charles (known as Pinch). Their names capture the complexion of their fraught relationship. Bear lumbers through life heedless of his impact; Pinch shrinks, unable to escape the giant’s shadow, hoping only to avoid being trampled underfoot.

Pinch is far from the only victim of the Bavinsky legend. Speaking to Natty, his current wife—Pinch’s mother, and a potter whose insecurities provide the perfect foil for his overbearing personality—Bavinsky proclaims: “You are a talent, my Natty. If you want to be. All it takes is a bit more oomph.” Bear is oomph incarnate. He charms and bullies, holds forth and rages,…Continue reading

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