The Straw Man

“Barbara Goldsmith’s writing is crisp, clean, and flowing. An amazing, extraordinary work of stylish craftsmanship, The Straw Man gives modern novels a vitally needed vitamin injection and those who care about literature a cause for rejoicing.”
--New York Magazine

“Absolutely first-rate . . . an insightful, suspenseful tale.”
--George Plimpton

“Knowing, understanding . . . a witty oasis among recent fictions—if it is fiction.”
--Truman Capote

“Barbara Goldsmith’s got it right. Remarkably entertaining! Brilliant social criticism.”
--John Kenneth Galbraith, New York Magazine

Barbara Goldsmith’s The Straw Man is an explosive novel about the fabulously wealthy Royceman family, financiers through several generations, collectors of opulent homes, exclusive clubs, thoroughbred horses, influence, women, and art. The family’s obsession is the Royceman Collection: the finest private art collection in America, a hundred million dollars’ worth of Old Masters, Impressionists, Neo-Impressionists, and objects d’art. It has all been willed by Bertram Royceman to a New York museum to be housed in a special pavilion—provided the lawsuits can be cleared up.

The narrator and central character is Bertie, the only son of Bertram Royceman. Ignored, manipulated, shunted aside in the power game, he files suit to challenge his father’s will and to find a will of his own. The ensuing battle rips open the art world, where young radical artists bent on the destruction of traditional art, clash with arrogant custodians of the past.

The Straw Man is a novel of uncommon excitement and uncommon merit, a fast moving tale told by an insider with an intimate knowledge of the world she writes about. Compelling plotting and sharp depiction of character, setting, and detail draw the reader into Bertie’s struggle to come to terms with himself and with the overbearing legacy—personal as well as financial—of his father. “As I was growing up,” he writes, “my father would show guests through our apartment as if conducting an extended series of student tours. He was an articulate guide. He would pause in the living room, where the paintings hung in tiers three deep, and gesture toward the walls and say, ‘These are my children.’ . . . I’d really spent a lot of time hating the Royceman Collection.” That emotion, once unleashed, sets off a chain of events whose remarkable progress and denouement make The Straw Man a dramatic and powerful reading experience.

Selected Works

Best-selling author Barbara Goldsmith on the myth and reality behind the extraordinary "Madame Curie".
“Absorbing, sweeping ... richness of narrative ... complex morally nuanced portraits ... compelling narrative power ... fabulously rich.”
--The New York Times
“Fascinating . . . An engrossing tale of greed, incest, treachery, legal incompetence, corruption, wealth and weakness.”
“Prodigiously researched this book has vast range. Staggering, gripping, confounding, informative, it is extraordinary.”
--Time Magazine
“Brilliant, fascinating, chilling—a marvelously entertaining novel about the decadent world of the super rich and the New York art establishment.” --Peter Maas
Read Barbara Goldsmith's essay "You Know, I Could Write the Most Wonderful Book" from the September 30th, 1984 issue of The New York Times Book Review.
Barbara Goldsmith's Op-Ed article for the New York Times on the controversy of the removal of Larry Rivers "Legs" from Sag Harbor, Long Island.
"La Dolce Viva" by Barbara Goldsmith. New York Magazine, 1968.
TOM WOLFE'S recounting of the beginning of New York Magazine
"No longer are there immutable standards by which to judge ourselves. Image has overtaken reality." -- Barbara Goldsmith, The New York Times Magazine, 1983
Barbara Goldsmith's contribution to the book "Windows on Central Park: The Landscape Revealed" by Betsy Pinover Schiff
Barbara Goldsmith's contribution "An Ongoing Vision" to the monograph on Robert Wilson and The Watermill Center.
Barbara Goldsmith's article from The New Yorker entitled "Women on the Edge".
Pranay Gupte's article on Barbara Goldsmith for the New York Sun.
Read the interview with Barbara Goldsmith in the NYPL BookMark Magazine
"A Testament of Riches Shared" by Pamela Ryckman
Barbara Goldsmith's Blog on Barbie in the 21st Century
Barbara Goldsmith's Blog on the death of Casey Johnson
Barbara Goldsmith's blog from The Daily Beast on New York Public Library pensions
Barbara Goldsmith's blog from The Daily Beast on Ethics
Barbara Goldsmith writes on inherited wealth.