Michael Gruber's The Forgery of Venus combines art history, criminal mischief, and the sleaziness of the contemporary art gallery business to deliver a terrifically fun thriller-esque novel.
The main character, Chaz Wilmot, is an extremely talented but frustrated and depressed magazine illustrator. For no special reason, he volunteers as a human guinea pig in a medical research study to test the effects of Salvia divinorum, a powerful, short-duration psychedelic drug that causes him to imagine he's living the life of Velásquez, the famous 17th century Spanish painter. These episodes cause all sorts of problems in his real life, and when he wakes up one morning in a strange apartment and discovers that he is actually a successful gallery artist, he flips out and lands in a mental ward.
When he's released (and learns that he's back to being the hack illustrator he started out as) Wilmot is eager to clear his head by taking on a lucrative commission to restore the fresco on the ceiling of an Italian mobster's palazzo. Here, he meets a sleazy German art dealer who specializes in paintings plundered by the Nazis in World War II. The dealer gives him an offer he can't refuse: to forge an "undiscovered" Velásquez painting. When he accepts, the strange events that have been happening to him intensify, and he finds himself wonder whether he's completely crazy or if powerful characters behind the curtain are pulling strings.
This is the kind of book that could easily become ludicrous and boring if it had been written by an author less talented than Gruber. His richly developed characters and engaging prose keep the story crisp and believable. The ending is satisfying, too, which is important to me. As soon as I finished the The Forgery of Venus I got started on another one of his novels, The Book of Air and Shadows, which I enjoyed just as much.
Over the past decade or so, Lauren McLaughin (previously) has written a handful of outstanding YA novels, each dealing with difficult issues of gender, personal autonomy and the casual cruelty of teens, starting with Cycler (and its sequel, Re-Cycler) (a teenaged girl who turned into a boy for four days every month); Scored (a class-conscious surveillance dystopia); The Free (a desperate novel about a teen car-thief in juvie) and now, her best book yet: Send Pics, a gripping thriller about sextortion, high school, revenge and justice.
The host of Project Farm compared the results of using a bunch of different knife sharpeners ranging in cost from nine dollars to $900. It turned out that the $9 sharpener was pretty good. His favorite was the Lansky sharpener, which costs about $45. From the YouTube description: Knife sharpeners tested: Lansky, Wicked Edge Gen […]
Love and Rockets’ creators Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez have mentioned in interviews that they loved Little Archie comic books when they were growing up. Little Archie was started in the 1950s and stars the characters from Archie comics as little kids. The earlier stories were written and drawn by Bob Bolling, and they’re regarded by […]
Virus quarantines and shuttered restaurants sent millions of Americans back to their homes, only to rediscover the joys of firing up an oven and cooking something special for themselves. Whether by desire, necessity, or both, many of us have certainly been spending more time in the kitchen these last few months. And we haven’t just […]
Now that the world is starting to re-emerge from its self-imposed COVID-19 quarantine, we’re all going to have to start making some adjustments to both short-term and long-term changes. And the questions… Should customers be hounded out of a store if they aren’t wearing a face mask? Are crocheted face masks safe or not? And […]
Maybe you had a piano teacher as a kid that drove you off the instrument forever. Or maybe you always wished for some serious training, but never found the time. Whether you have dreams of tossing off a Beethoven or Chopin piece at the drop of a hat or you have visions of being the […]