Category Archives: Reviews

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

the art forger

Summary:

Claire Roth, though a talented artist, is a pariah in the Boston art world after an artistic scandal involving her former professor and lover tarnishes her still-fledgling career. Approached by the handsome and successful Aiden Markel a few years after the dust has settled, Claire accepts a “Faustian” bargain to forge a Degas painting in exchange for a show at his famous gallery, Markel G. What Claire discovers as she digs deeper into the history of the painting and of the art of forgery itself is that nothing, especially art, is ever as it seems.

Review:

Art is at the core of everything in Shapiro’s novel. It has the capacity to destroy people, communities and relationships, and though it can also inspire, this inspiration becomes obsession over and over again for the characters that people The Art Forger. As one explains, “Once a piece of art crawls into your heart, you’ll never let it go.” Through the artistic longings of her characters, Shapiro tangentially touches on the issues at hand in regards to great art – who can or should “own” it? Is that even really possible? Are the art collectors who horde their own private collections doing a disservice to the public, who are denied exposure to this art, or a service to artists, who rely on their money to create more art?  

Moreover, I found the more central question of truth in The Art Forger to be very interesting. The title of the book sets up this friction from the get-go. Claire is a very talented artist who produces her own individual work, yet she makes her money working for Repro.com, a site that produces high-end “copies,” not forgeries (that semantic difference turns out to be very important). What is authentic here? What is legitimate? The question is ultimately even deeper than that put forth in an editorial in the novel -“Where does art’s value lie?” Really Shapiro invites us to ask “What is art itself?” The twists and turns of this novel, rather than giving us an answer, further muddies these waters. So much goes into a piece of art, especially Degas’ lovingly multi-layered masterpieces: the many coats of paint, the waiting, the infinitesimal corrections and care, but also(maybe most importantly) the perceptions of the painter and of the viewers. People in The Art Forger repeatedly see what they want to see, rather than seeing what is in front of them, and in the end I found myself unsettled by this book’s shaking of the foundations of reality.

Even though I find The Art Forger  both interesting and thought-provoking, there are things I don’t like about this book. I think the characters are ironically one-dimensional compared to the complex art they love, and the dialogue often cheesy. I don’t mind some cheese, but it got so distracting by the end of the book that I felt it took away from the message of the plot. Nevertheless, I think this book is worth a read just for the conversations it generates.

Fun Fact:

Although the central Degas painting of the novel, the fifth in a series called After the Bath, is fictional, there are four real paintings in this series that you can take a look at to get a feel for what you are reading about.

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Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

outofthesilentplanet 2

Summary:

Dr. Ransom, an English philologist, is kidnapped and carried onto a spaceship headed for Mars. Once there, he escapes from his captors, lives among the native inhabitants, and learns some surprising information about his own planet in his adventures.

Review:

“Things do not always happen as a man expects” (38).

The first of C.S. Lewis’ science fiction trilogy about the space adventures of Dr. Ransom is ultimately a novel of perceptions. Ransom begins to change on a fundamental level as soon as he awakens in the pure space sunlight aboard the ship of his captors, and as the novel progresses he sheds his fears and his pride to reach a new openness and love of life.

Is this a sci-fi novel like I’ve read before? No. Although it is peppered with space travel, “aliens” and new planets, it is ultimately a novel of spiritual discovery. Ransom’s interplanetary travel becomes a metaphor for his own internal travels- a journey into the far reaches of his beliefs and understandings. He is repeatedly reminded, through his interactions with the hrossa, sorns and pfiffltriggi (Martian, or “Malacandran” natives), that the fears and judgments he has held onto are limiting and small-minded. Fortunately, he is given the opportunities to grow and learn, and takes them whenever he can. The same cannot be said of his captors, whose interactions with the natives are markedly different and decidedly negative.

Did I enjoy it? I would say yes. I liked that Lewis took a well-worn formula (reluctant hero + spaceship + new worlds) and used it as a springboard to go internal, and yes, spiritual. Without revealing too much, the idea of a cruel space and a comforting Earth is completely turned on its head, and Ransom is confronted with a universe that is much kinder than he had thought.

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

When I first came across this book, I was skeptical that anyone could re-create P.G. Wodehouse’s beloved characters.   The book was well reviewed by Kirkus and Sebastian Faulks is an excellent writer on his own.  So I opened it with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised.

Jeeves and Wooster are back – Bertie is as bumbling as ever and Jeeves saves the day routinely.  Love and weddings are in the air and one can only imagine what that means for these two.  Without giving anything away, the book quite neatly wraps up any and all problems that Jeeves and Bertie create.   There were quite a few laughs and I rolled my eyes a bit but overall I really enjoyed it.  It definitely makes me want to re-read the originals.  Faulks has channeled Wodehouse quite well and has the language down.  It does not come across as a parody of the original but more an homage to Wodehouse.

I would recommend it to anyone who loves Wodehouse and anyone looking for a fairly light but fun read.  Who can resist that?