Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber

But someone shouts, and the flower woman darts away and does not latch the gate, and I slip out into the street, although I have been warned not to, warned that the Jews will steal me. I follow the flower lady through the narrow streets; she knocks at doors, enters or is shouted away. While I wait I play with a stick; I poke a dead cat into the sewer that runs down the center of the street. I am careful with my shoes, I am not to get them wet with the filth. ~ The Forgery of Venus, page 62 (ARC uncorrected proof)

Chaz Wilmot, an artist more gifted than his famous father, more gifted than his contemporaries whose works sell for fortunes, refuses to compromise his gift and so leads a miserable life as a commercial hack. Offered a lucrative job restoring a ceiling in a Venetian palazzo, Chaz reluctantly accepts. With an ex-wife and a desperately sick child, he needs the money. Once there, Chaz finds there's little left to restore ~ it's more a "re-creation" than restoration ~ but he does the job brilliantly, so well that it leads to other opportunities which he finds impossible to resist. But this work sets Chaz on the road to madness, and he begins to question his own existence: Is he who he thinks he is? Or is there another Chaz, a man he himself wouldn't recognize? Is he crazy? Or is someone trying to drive him crazy for their own purposes?

I didn't finish this book reading 112 of 318 pages. I initially found the concept of the story interesting but as I read further I became more disenchanted and frustrated. The parts of the story where he travels back in time and paints as a famous, well known artist while in a chemically induced state were what kept me reading. The parts where the main character is pondering his childhood, his current state in life and his poor, whoa is me the misunderstood artist drove me to distraction. Basically I just didn't enjoy what I reading. I can't explain it any better than that. The author a couple of times references the events of 9/11 and one character is determined to create a work of "art" using "materials" he collected from that day. This is the point where I put the book down for good. This character creates his "art" and I found the author's description of this fictional work of "art" very disturbing. This was a new-to-me author and I won't be reading anymore from him.


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