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I said, "The picture in your window. I just liked the image. I could look it up. The page exposed showed an image of a 17th century Dutch landscape. She started to page through the book, but in the wrong direction, towards more modern art and not towards earlier. When I pointed this out to her, she said, "How do you know?
I thought you said you didn't know who painted it. But the style of the painting is from earlier in the book. You're in the 17th century there, and the Sebastian is a quattrocento painting, the 15th century, two centuries earlier. I might have been speaking Welsh. She clearly did not share my sense that an understanding of where art came from and what the artist meant by it, as derived from his own historical experience, is essential to the intelligent viewing of a picture.
Velasquez And so this remarkable story begins It is a story about a criminal deception, about the control some would exert over Chaz Wilmont. About people in his life who would do anything to get him to paint as he was meant to paint while profiting enormously in the process. Are you totally incensed at having to live in the "Cult of In-between" where your desire for the standards of literature that harbor questions posed in a serious way - questions surrounding the human condition - is in constant conflict with your craving for a good yarn; sadly consigned almost exclusively to thrillers that are formulaic and written in dull prose?
Michael Gruber shares your sensibilities. It's not that he harbors the inability to write popular fiction. He's actually quite good at it. He is generally acknowledged to be the ghostwriter of the popular Robert K. That partnership ended when Gruber realized that writing the same book over and over was boring.
And as Gruber says: I'm not exactly bitching, had I stayed with that job I might be a Patricia Cornwell or a Clive Cussler by now, with seven-figure advances and the rest of that kind of life. On the subject of cults in fiction he clarifies the issue and defines it "as a writer with a relatively small number of passionately devoted fans, who never quite breaks into mass-market popularity. Otherness is a word Gruber frequently uses to describe the Cult of In-between.
Having discarded popular fiction and with it its millions of followers and since "I don't do cute, and there goes another 70 million readers Perhaps with a movie this might change as there are cases where a cult readership arrives at popular readership via the exposure of a novel onto the silver screen. I am pretty content with the cult as is, although I guess I could learn to like being fabulously wealthy too. Even that wasn't enough, following this he went to Miami and received a masters in marine biology.
During his stint in the U. Army he served as a medic. In he received a Ph. Doing a he worked as a chef in various NY restaurants, then he was a hippie, worked as a roadie for rock bands, was an analyst in Metropolitan Dade county, followed by the title of Director of Planning for HR; worked in D. Only then did he begin writing fiction, mostly writing the novels for Robert K.
Tanenbaum after having moved to Seattle. Michael Gruber is a brilliant author whose books not only serve up great prose and as is so often the case nary a plot to go with it , but delivers on both: This, while reading along in "page turning" mode.
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That is not easy to do: I've only met a few that have read him, but he is an island unto his own: View all 18 comments. Nov 25, Gerald rated it it was amazing. Thanks to Judy Wisdomkeeper's comment on Goodreads for recommending this book. Gruber's writing style has a voice, and right away that puts him at the top of my list. Besides the plotting, which goes back and forth in time in ways I've never experienced in a book, The Forgery of Venus fascinates in two other ways - its meticulous description of painting technique and its depiction of mental illness.
Peter Carey's Theft, which I also enjoyed, also has these two elements. The neurological issues a Thanks to Judy Wisdomkeeper's comment on Goodreads for recommending this book. The neurological issues are also reminiscent of another masterpiece novel, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. View all 6 comments. Jul 02, Michelle rated it it was amazing.
Oh how I love Michael Gruber. Here's a man who never writes the same book twice. The first of his I read was The Witch's Boy, a modern fairy tale. Then I read Tropic of Night, which has mainly to do with voodoo in Miami I'm leaving out a lot of important details, but it was excellent.
And then I moved on to The Book of Air and Shadows, which is a "literary thriller," meaning that it's a thriller that centers around books, one of my very favorite genres. And now The Forgery of Venus, which has to do, broadly, with art and a sort of time travel. I was an art history minor in college, so I could conjure up all the paintings in my mind while reading about them, which of course helped, but I'm sure that's not necessary. It's a real page turner; I read this book in the space of 24 hours. I'm happy that I still haven't read everything he's written. Apr 06, Ben Babcock rated it did not like it Shelves: Although it contains a promising theme, The Forgery of Venus lacks a compelling story.
Its characters are largely shallow and uninteresting; its plot is overly-complicated; the pacing suffers from an overabundance of exposition. While I'm sure Gruber had the best of intentions, his poor technical execution leaves much to be desired. Ultimately, I found The Forgery of Venus unsatisfactory. For reasons that later become clear unreliable narrator , Gruber chooses to wrap the story in a frame narrat Although it contains a promising theme, The Forgery of Venus lacks a compelling story. For reasons that later become clear unreliable narrator , Gruber chooses to wrap the story in a frame narrative told from the point of view of the protagonist's former college buddy.
The scenario goes as follows: For the first few chapters, Gruber dazzles us with exposition, in which our cardboard characters get shellacked with various traumas and emotional baggage--daddy issues, mommy issues, commitment issues, etc. But then the story proper begins, and suddenly it doesn't sound like Chaz is dictating his story anymore.
However, the "suspension of disbelief" sign has turned on, and I've fastened my seat belt, so apparently I'm going along for the ride. And this is an important point: If it isn't a frame narrative, it's a weak Call-Me-Ishmael chapter. In the specific case of The Forgery of Venus , I have the misfortune in that the only character I dislike more than Chaz Wilmot is the frame narrator. While Gruber can justify Chaz's painful expository chapters as consistent with the structure of the narrative, the frame narrator has no such crutch upon which to lean: Just to set the record straight, most Canadians don't say "eh" at the end of their sentences; while I'm sure there are some who do, the very idea that you mentioned the stereotype offended me.
The frame narrator's explanation of why Chaz is talking to him is weak at best: And somewhere along the way he picked up enough art history to appreciate the significance of Chaz's adventure from a scholarly perspective? The unbelievable plot, in addition to the unbelievable, paper-thin characters, is what ruined this book for me. The themes that Gruber attempts to evince are worthy. The book improves toward the end, so I'm glad I persevered, and I understand Gruber's message about the mutability of our reality.
Unfortunately, any redeeming aspects of The Forgery of Venus are crushed by its poor plotting and weak writing. It's, in some ways, an anti- The Da Vinci Code --Dan Brown's research was weak, but as a writer he managed to create a compelling story. Conversely, Gruber's research and themes are strong, but the story lacks life and substance. The number of acceptable scenarios in which one can say, "Dad had a little problem" are few.
I think that's the point where I gave up on the book's quality and resolved merely to finish it so I could give it a complete notice I didn't say "fair" review. I eked very little enjoyment from The Forgery of Venus. As romantic and attractive as the art forgery scene may seem, Gruber manages to quash that feeling in his drug-induced insanity plot. Had I any sympathy for the protagonist after the first few chapters which I didn't , in which he whines about how unfortunate his life has been, it would have slowly bled out of me while I watched Chaz firmly refuse to take any responsibility for his own life.
He's a passive protagonist.
The Forgery of Venus is a dead-on-arrival story burdened by its author's prose. I feel sorry for it, but not for its characters. I look forward to cleansing my reading palate with something more tasty next. Mar 19, Barbara rated it it was amazing. Rather than give a complete summary of this book, it would would be preferable to comment on several points. It is positively essential for the reader to suspend many previous held beliefs while reading this complex tale because it has the appearance of being a supernatural fantasy.
Yet, perhaps it is. The reader is guided through a maze of elaborate, yet wondrous experiences. Is Chaz, the protagonist, actually experiencing these time travel events? Are the amazing events, so vi Rather than give a complete summary of this book, it would would be preferable to comment on several points. Are the amazing events, so vividly portrayed here, stimulated by drugs? Just when the reader discovers that the answers have been provided toward the end of the book, many new questions arise.
Despite Gruber's capable manipulation of the facts, it seems that for everything to have occurred, there would have had to be an amazing amount of coordination and manipulation of the many people and locations involved. Despite some criticism stated here, it is impossible not to appreciate this novel. Gruber is an elegant, intelligent writer. He is masterful in his ability to provide the reader with vivid representations of art work, the environment and to portray his characters.
His discussions of historical events, artists and their great works are inspirations to seek further information on them. It was also rewarding to note that Gruber made many references to how senselesss and unappealing "modern" art was to Chaz and others- a feeling that this reader shares. The senseless materialism of many consumers was approached well also. This book has inspired me to seek other works by this gifted, clearly elite author. View all 3 comments. A fascinating tale of art, artistry, art forgery, time travel and what literary critic John Clute dubbed godgaming: Chaz Wilmot Jr, living in the shadow of the memory of his father, an artist in the Norman Rockwell mold, is himself a relatively successful commercial artist who's constantly trying to hide it from himself that, just like his celebrated father, he could have be A fascinating tale of art, artistry, art forgery, time travel and what literary critic John Clute dubbed godgaming: Chaz Wilmot Jr, living in the shadow of the memory of his father, an artist in the Norman Rockwell mold, is himself a relatively successful commercial artist who's constantly trying to hide it from himself that, just like his celebrated father, he could have been so much more of an artist than his own timidity has allowed him to be.
To increase the pressure on him, his son by his second failed marriage has a mystery ailment that may kill him young unless he has the kind of medical treatment that only multimillionaires can afford. When a medical researcher offers Chaz a place on an experimental program to test a new drug that will supposedly boost imaginative creativity, he jumps at the chance. But the drug does more than enhance creativity. It also -- as per the drug in Daphne du Maurier's The House on the Strand -- seems to give him the power to travel into other lives and alternate versions of his own life.
But there's a drawback to forging artworks for gangsters. They reckon the one thing that could go wrong with their fraudulent schemes is if the forger himself blabs, and there's an obvious way of making sure this doesn't happen.
The Forgery of Venus — Michael Gruber
It's difficult to know quite where to start in describing why I enjoyed this book so much. So far as I can tell I was married for twenty years to a fine artist , the artistic insider-talk is authentic, complete with lots of very funny, very snide remarks about New York's Whitney Museum and the stuff it chooses to hang. For some reason MoMA escapes similar mockery. I know far less about the art-forgery world, for obvious reasons -- the closest I've ever come to it is never quite getting round to reading Tom Keating's autobiography -- but in this respect, too, the details seem authentic.
The book's stuffed with nice artistic insights. But [the portrait's] power comes from a lot more than scale, because a life-size Kodachrome print would be a joke. It's not mere illusion, has nothing to do with those fussy little nature mort or trompe l'oeil paintings you see in the side rooms of museums, it's its own thing, the life of two men, artist and subject interpenetrated, coming alive, the vital loom of a life in a moment of time.
On reading that observation, that what's important about a portrait is not just the painter, not just the subject, but the intersection of their two lives, I sat back in my chair, and said, " Yes! And there are countless little observations like this. For the time I was reading this novel I felt I was learning to think how a fine artist can think. Aside from a short framing section front and back, the novel's narrative is supposedly a transcription of Chaz's own account of events as dictated by him onto a compact disk.
As such, it mimics spoken monologue, with lots of sequential commas everywhere and the like. It took me a little while to get used to this but, once I did, it seemed completely natural, the "spoken" flow of the words drawing me in in a way that a more formally correct text might not have done -- so much so that, when I got to the book's last few pages and the concluding little section by Chaz's friend, the more written style seemed almost anticlimactic. I felt rather like Chaz's friend did when he wrote, as the book's final few lines: The wrapup near the end of the book, where most of what has gone before is rationalized, struck me as a tad hasty, and I can imagine this section would strike some readers as being clodhoppingly Dan Brownish.
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As for me, though, it made me grin. For much of the book Gruber has been pretending to spin a Dan Brownish tale while mischievously addressing quite different concerns, and now here he comes right out into the open in a sort of take-it-or-leave-it moment before returning to what he's really interested in. The Forgery of Venus represented, for me, an absolutely addictive experience -- far more gripping than the average thriller or adventure yarn. It surely has launched Gruber into the forefront of my consciousness as a writer to watch.
Jul 12, Nadine rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I've read Michael Gruber's voodoo-mystic, Miami atmosphere thrillers, loved them, and was thrown by this latest effort. The Forgery of Venus takes the reader to the New York art scene, and immerges him into a world whose boundaries have been lost by drugs and self pity. The protagonist, an artist who has failed to live up to his potential, becomes involved in a scheme to forge a Valezques.
What the reader is left with at the end is questions, not answers. Did the drug trial the artist participate I've read Michael Gruber's voodoo-mystic, Miami atmosphere thrillers, loved them, and was thrown by this latest effort. Did the drug trial the artist participate in create an alternate universe?
Was he forced into his criminal business deal? Did he really go insane, or did he find his way to his true artistic gifts outside the strict codes the New York art community was enforcing? If your preference is a book that makes you think, and leaves you wondering, this book is for you.
Everything is pitch perfect: Gruber doesn't hit one wrong note in this work. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time, and eagerly will await his next effort. Jan 11, Rosie rated it really liked it.
I really like the way Gruber writes. I like his use of language, his rhythms, his pacing, his words. His characters live, too. Here, they're similar to the characters in his first book, but that's fine, since they're fun. In this book, he has some really lovely moments where character changes occurr subtly and effectively.
He writes about art-related topics with sensitivity. His endings are a little over the top for me Bu I really like the way Gruber writes. But still, they're fun. This is a great airplane book I like it even more than his first book. Mar 07, Katie rated it really liked it. This was a pretty good book. One that I didn't hold out to big of expectations for to be honest. In the hands of someone else this book could have been very dry and boring because in my opinion the actual story wasn't that great until almost the end, but it was neither.
The writing and characters kept me going, especially Chaz. Even though he was a batshit crazy, snotty artist he was likable and him as narrator was great. The details about art in general were bordering on pretentious, but were m This was a pretty good book. The details about art in general were bordering on pretentious, but were mostly enjoyable and immersed you into the world.
Great ending as well. For those reviewers who gave this less than 5 stars: So really - you're going to complain? Okay, okay, as I s For those reviewers who gave this less than 5 stars: Okay, okay, as I said, everyone is entitled to their opinion, which is what makes it all so much fun. And speaking of fun, this book is a great read. It's not light and breezy fun, but a great summer combination of page-turning and thought-provoking. The unreliable narrator, in this case, is the perfect instrument for exploring many of the topics named above, and I did from time to time think of Billy Pilgrim, untethered from time in a similar way, though more of a foil than is the protagonist here.
And similarly either crazy or not. The writing in general is enthusiastic and deft, but while I found these passages inspiring enough to make me want to find my brushes again if I could get off the couch - perhaps I'll read another novel instead , I do wonder how someone uninterested in the process might get through them. Maybe just fine - it's not a question meant to imply a negative, but a genuine curiosity. On the other hand, I once read a 10, word article on shipping via the eyes of sailors on a tramp steamer simply because the writing was just so good, and I suspect the same thing will pull along any non-artistically oriented reader.
A word about endings: I felt a bit let down by this one, but I also feel a tremendous sympathy for the author - and contemporary writers generally. The arc of modern literature has left them in a position whereby if they leave the ending ambiguous, people complain that it's a cop-out; yet if they come down on one side or the other, people complain that it's too tidy and real life does not work that way. Perhaps this suggests the need to re-structure the novel, but in Western literature, conflict is at the heart of every story, and where does that leave the writer?
Not everyone can writing an ending as perfect as Joyce did for The Dubliners, and there are plenty of books out there with satisfying endings. Still, I empathize, and it did little to dampen my enjoyment of the novel. But as usual, I digress. Pick up the book, pay the author, read the story. You'll be doing a good thing. May 15, Judy rated it liked it Recommends it for: Sometimes you just want to read at a fast pace and not have to think too deeply. Especially if like me, you don't watch TV.
Don't get me wrong. Michael Gruber can actually write. He falls into a category of thriller author who is a step or more above the David Baldaaci crowd, plus his subject matter tends toward the cultural: Painter Chaz Wilmot is the tortured genius type. I always enjoy reading about a Sometimes you just want to read at a fast pace and not have to think too deeply.
I always enjoy reading about a genius, either from real life or imagined. I was surprised to find an incident where the artist runs amok, slashing paintings in a museum. Elizabeth Kostova included such a scene in The Swan Thieves, though her book was published two years later. Apparently crimes against art are more prevalent than I realized. In fact, the thriller aspect here involves several varieties of art crime and features a villain you almost like. In another twist concerning male genius, the artist is the victim instead of the wife.
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And I loved the fact that Chaz participates in program testing a new drug to enhance creativity, leading him to either channel a famous Spanish painter or go into past life regression. Michael Gruber is on my list any time he writes a new book.
He might have a touch of genius himself. Feb 23, Eileen Phillips rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: I cannot even describe how much I love art forgery. I don't know why. I don't know what it is, but art forgery fascinates me. Which is weird because unoriginality, copycatting, clones of society, all that crap pisses me off.
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