One-Minute Book Reviews

November 7, 2009

Pat the Picasso – The ‘Touch the Art’ Board Books for Young Children

I haven’t written about board books for a while, in part because the good ones seem to be getting rarer: More and more, these books for babies and toddlers rip-off bestsellers for older children instead of doing what they alone can do. But in today’s Wall Street Journal Megan Cox Gurdon writes about a series that suggests the unique potential of the medium: Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo’s “Touch the Art” line, which began with Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair. “Each book features well-known images adorned with appealing, touchable gimmicks,” Gurdon writes. The latest is Catch Picasso’s Rooster (Sterling, 21 pp., $12.95), which invites children to stroke things such as a red-feather comb and the cat in Henri Rousseau’s The Tabby. You can read Gurdon’s review here. The publisher’s site has more on other books in the series, including Count Monet’s Lilies.

April 29, 2009

Second Thoughts on R. A. Scotti’s ‘Vanished Smile’

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:19 am
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A few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I was enjoying R. A. Scotti’s Vanished Smile, a new historical true crime book about the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa. At the end of her tale, Scotti revealed that an early scene had been based on newspaper article that might have been entirely false, so questionable was the reporter’s credibility. This technique is very different from the one normally favored by true-crime writers — withholding some facts — and undermines the book. It’s one thing to dole out clues carefully and it’s another to insert material that may be fiction. The belated revelation that this had occurred cast much of the earlier material in the book in a new light that flattered neither Scotti nor Vanished Smile.

March 12, 2009

If Only the Recession Were Like This for Writers and Artists — More on R. A. Scotti’s Forthcoming ‘Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa’

The cover of the advance reader's edition of 'Vanished Smile'

I’ve been reading R. A. Scotti’s historical true-crime book Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa (Knopf, April 2009), which I mentioned yesterday. And it’s been a pleasure after trudging through the finalists for the 2009 Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books, the winners of which will be announced Monday. Another quote from Scotti’s fascinating tale, this one about Picasso’s Rose period:

“In those happy days, Picasso would sell his art by the armful – a hundred francs (then worth about twenty dollars) for a stack of drawings; two thousand francs for thirty canvases. A few dealers – notably, Ambrose Vollard, astute and fair, and Clovis Sagot, an unscrupulous ex-clown who sold art out of an old apothecary – were scooping up Picasso’s harlequins and saltimbanques for the price of a meal … money was a luxury, and freeloading was a way of life. ‘You could owe money for years for your paints and canvases and rent and restaurant and practically everything except coal and luxuries,’ Picasso remembered.”

(c) 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 11, 2009

‘Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa’ — Partial Verdict

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:06 am
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Picasso used “a rusty frying pan for a chamber pot,” R. A. Scotti says in Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa (Knopf, April 2009), her new book about the 1911 theft of the painting from the Louvre. I’ve been reading this fascinating historical true-crime story to distract myself from the crimes against literature committed by some of the Delete Key Awards finalists. And based on the first 75 pages: Fans of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, this is your book.

July 24, 2008

Why You See a Hint of Columns in the ‘Mona Lisa’ — Answers to Tuesday’s Art Quiz

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:41 pm
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How well did you do on Tuesday’s pop quiz inspired by Patrick De Rynck’s How to Read a Painting? Here are the answers from the book:

1. Why do you see a hint of columns on the far right and left in the Mona Lisa?
They create “the impression that she is sitting in an open loggia.”
2. Where in The Last Supper do you find Judas knocking over the salt?
John sits at the right hand of Christ (in the center of the picture), and Peter leans toward him, shoving Judas aside. Judas “clasps the purse containing the silver coins he received from the authorities and knocks over the salt.”
3. Why does the man stand next to the window and the woman away from it in Giovanni Arnofini and His Wife?
The wife’s position “associates her with the ‘inside world’ of the home.”

How to Read a Painting: Lessons From the Old Masters (Abrams, 2004) is an excellent collection of analyses of more than 100 great paintings, each shown on a two-page spread with callouts that highlight some of its interesting aspects. Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife, shown here, hangs the National Gallery in London under the title The Arnolfini Portrait.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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