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Author event--Michael Gruber


Last night, I went to see Michael Gruber (author of The Book of Air and Shadows, also author of the more recently published The Forgery of Venus) read and sign his books at Partners & Crime bookstore in the Village. I have to admit here and now that I’ve never read anything he’s written, but I went anyways because, well, book readings are my idea of fun.

The talk Gruber gave was pretty casual and liberally sprinkled with humor--literally, toilet humor. He began by talking about art—The Forgery of Venus is about forging a Velazquez painting, and how a forger not only wants to paint like someone, they actually want to be that painter. This, apparently, is one of the major themes of the novel. Then Gruber gave us a history of western art in about three minutes, beginning with the caves at Lascaux and ending with the urinal that was submitted as artwork in the 1920s.

Gruber joked about the fact that all his books have “of” in the title—it’s marketing, not him, who decides what the titles of his books should be. He also talked about the artwork of the cover—a reproduction of the Rokeby Venus, with Velazquez’s face photoshopped in and the Venus’s butt crack photoshopped out. The reason for this, as Gruber joked, was because of the people at Costco, where “no butt cracks are allowed. Well, except for the clerk over on aisle 7 bending over to unload merchandise.” At the end, he read a short chapter from the book. The talk, along with Q &As, lasted about 45 minutes.

Below is a synopsis of The Forgery of Venus, from Publisher’s Weekly:

Bestseller Gruber (The Book of Air and Shadows) probes the boundaries between sanity and madness in his outstanding sixth novel. Talented Chaz Wilmot, who makes a modest living as a commercial artist in New York City, can't say no when Mark Slade, his former Columbia roommate who now owns a downtown gallery, offers him $150,000 to fix a ruined Tiepolo ceiling in a Venetian palazzo (the ceiling had essentially collapsed, so it wasn't a restoration job exactly but more like a reproducing job). Once abroad, Wilmot gets sucked into an increasingly bizarre world where his own identity is confused and the art he produces may be a forgery but is genuinely magnificent. Is Wilmot crazy or is he being manipulated in a grandiose scheme linked to unrecovered art stolen by the Nazis? Gruber writes passionately and knowledgeably about art and its history—and he writes brilliantly about the shadowy lines that blur reality and unreality. Fans of intelligent, literate thrillers will be well rewarded.

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