First-rate research and narrative skill propel this tale of greed, war and skillful manipulation of the popular imagination....

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THE MAN WHO MADE VERMEERS

UNVARNISHING THE LEGEND OF MASTER FORGER HAN VAN MEEGEREN

Art journalist Lopez shows a Dutch painter who enriched himself by faking Old Masters emerging as a folk hero at the end of World War II.

Not much of a hero, the author convincingly demonstrates in his closely argued and generously illustrated debut. Han Van Meegeren was a sorely sullied character at best, a perfidious crypto-fascist and Nazi collaborator at worst. A longtime art forger (he’d begun with fakes of Franz Hals), he married twice, dallied often, lived like a prince in occupied Amsterdam while his fellow citizens starved in the streets, sent felicitations to Hitler, painted pro-Aryan images, lied, manipulated old friends and betrayed both calling and country. Lopez meticulously reconstructs the edifice of Van Meegeren’s life. We learn about his parents, his education and training, his early leftist leanings and his eventual relationship with the right. Because his portrait paintings didn’t enable him to live in the style to which he hoped to become accustomed, he soon embraced forgery, inventing new techniques that fooled experts (chemists included) and employing to his advantage a lacuna in Johannes Vermeer’s biography. Van Meegeren knew that Vermeer had done some early paintings with religious themes, so he decided to plug the gap with more. For a few years he fooled the art establishment. Collectors and museums bought his Vermeers and displayed them proudly and prominently; rapacious art lover Hermann Goering ponied up mega-guilders for the bogus Christ and the Adulteress. Although Van Meegeren was quickly nabbed after the war, he convinced arresting officer Joseph Piller that he’d been duping the Nazis, not collaborating with them. Piller became a friend and advocate; the press loved the story. Van Meegeren eventually was convicted of forgery and sentenced to a year in prison, but he died before serving a day.

First-rate research and narrative skill propel this tale of greed, war and skillful manipulation of the popular imagination. For more, see also Edward Dolnick’s authoritative The Forger’s Spell (2008).

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-15-101341-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

THE WAY I HEARD IT

Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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