A Pair of Mini Reviews

My family and I just returned from a long road trip along the coast of Northern California where the redwoods scrape the foggy sky and the Pacific pounds rocks into beautiful trinkets to weigh down pockets. We camped most of the time and were mostly “unplugged,” though I did read a couple of books on my e-reader.

the art forgerThe Art Forger, by B. A. Shapiro

A quick read, enjoyable for anyone with an interest in art and art history. The protagonist is a struggling NYC painter hired by an influential gallery owner to forge a stolen Degas painting in exchange for a solo show that will undoubtedly rescue her career. Despite her misgivings, she takes the job and discovers both that she is copying a forgery and the location of the original. The events in the story unfolded entirely too conveniently — the love affairs too predictable, the creative process too painless, the sleuthing too miraculous. Still, I was interested by the descriptions of technique for both Degas and those who forged his work, and a good treasure hunt tale is always fun.

e-reader version
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast TrailWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

As we were road tripping and hiking through some of the country that Cheryl Strayed hiked in this memoir, I thought it was a good choice for the trip. I was worried that this book would be similar in its self-indulgence to Eat, Pray, Love, but was relieved to find it more honest. Strayed embarks on a massive 1000 mile trek of some of this country’s most remote wilderness at the tender (and in her case, wounded) age of 26 after several years of confusion and self-abusive behavior following her mother’s untimely death and the dissolution of her much-too-young marriage. Initially I puzzled over many of Strayed’s choices, but the more I read, the more I revived memories of my own impulsive behaviors at that age, however less self-destructive. I had imagined that the wilderness itself would bring Strayed her resolution, but I think hers came through the process of walking and physical suffering she experienced. I have nurtured dreams of doing a long walk/hike like this for a while, but I will do it as an older woman, and I wonder what the process might bring to me. I think we imagine what such experiences will be like (as we do places, events) and then it can be much different to realize the actuality once we are in them. There is one quote in the book that really hit me this way:

My transition into the Cascade range had been like the one Id experience crossing into the Sierra Nevada: I’d been hiking for days in each before I felt I was actually entering my idea of them.

e-reader copy
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012

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