In the Great Green Room

in-the-great-green-room

 

In the Great Green Room
The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown

Amy Gary
Flatiron Books, 2017

From the dust jacket, “The extraordinary life of the woman behind the beloved children’s classics Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny comes alive in this fascinating biography of Margaret Wise Brown. …
“Clever, quirky, and incredibly talented, Margaret embraces life with passion, lived extravagantly off of her royalties, went on rabbit hunts, and carried on long and troubled love affairs with both men and women. …
“…Margaret died unexpectedly at the age of forty-two, leaving behind a cache of unpublished work and a timeless collection of books that would go on to become classics in children’s literature.
“Author Amy Gary captures the eccentric and exceptional life of Margaret Wise Brown and, drawing on newly discovered personal letters and diaries, reveals an intimate portrait of a creative genius whose unrivaled talent breathed new life into the literary world.”

My Auntie loves Margaret Wise Brown’s books, especially Goodnight Moon. She said she read it to her sons many, many times over their younger years. We don’t normally read biographies – I think this is only the third one we’ve read and reviewed; but because Auntie loves the author’s books so much, we thought we should read it. It was very good!

You can tell the author, Amy Gary, put a great deal of time and research into her book; it is well informed, rich with detail and emotion and super easy to read. In fact, it reads like a novel. The reader is taken chronologically through Brown’s life, not shying away from potentially controversial subjects – who knew that one of the world’s greatest children’s author was bisexual? While it might make a difference to some folks, it’s no matter for us. Talented – no – gifted & artistic people come from all walks of life and generally lead wide-open lives. Brown changed the world of children’s book publishing to what we enjoy today. All of today’s authors really have her to thank for it.

This isn’t a spoiler – you know right from the beginning she dies young – and it was so sudden and tragic, I actually had tears in my eyes. I felt so bad – it was like a friend dying for a stupid reason. You’ll see what I mean when you read the book. It makes me wonder how much more she would have contributed to the world had she lived and continued to write. But don’t let the sad end keep you from reading about this gifted author. If you’ve read any of her books, please read this one!

Rating 5 out of 5 paws because in spite of the tragic ending, the author brilliantly captured the wild and wonderful Margaret Wise Brown.

Ps. What does the title mean? You’ll have to read halfway into the book to find out! It is significant!!

Reviewer:

jack-loc

Jack

Caveat Emptor

caveat-emptor

Caveat Emptor
The Secret Life of an American Art Forger

Ken Perenyi
Pegasus Books, 2012

From the dust jacket: “Ten years ago, an FBI investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the southern District of New York was about to expose a scandal in the art world that would have headlined the front pages in New York and London. After a trail of fake paintings of astonishing quality led federal agents through a labyrinth of art dealers, renowned experts, and major auction houses, the investigation inexplicably ended, despite the abundance of evidence collected. The case was closed and the FBI file was marked “exempt from public disclosure.”
“Now that the statute of limitations on these crimes has expired and the case appears hermetically sealed shut by the FBI, this book, Caveat Emptor, is Ken Perenyi’s confession. It is the story, in detail, of how he pulled it all off.
“…Caveat Emptor is unique in that it is the first book by and about America’s most talented art forger. And unlike other forgers, Perenyi produced no paper trail, no fake provenance whatsoever; he let the paintings speak for themselves. And that they did, routinely mesmerizing experts in mere seconds.”

This is one of those books that if you read it as fiction or saw it as a movie, you would say ‘that can’t ever happen’. You know the phrase, “The truth is stranger than fiction”? Well, there was never any more truer statement as can be said about this book and about the life its author led (and may still lead). Quite simply, it blew my mind.

Not only is the author incredibly talented – I would say genius/savant level talent – but instinctively aware of what not to do so he doesn’t get caught. Of course, I was truly bothered – no, appalled is a better word – by his lack of basic moral values regarding theft and lying. There was some outright theft but it was more disturbing to me that he spent almost his entire early career lying by omission. He copied great works of art, signed the artist’s name to it but when he offered it for sale – whether to an auction house or a private seller/dealer, he walked up to the line but never crossed it – meaning, he never actually said the painting was by the artist or that he had painted it, just that he had ‘found’ it. It’s a slippery slope he was on and by a measure grace from somewhere he was incredibly successful at it.

The book is very readable – I don’t know if the author is as talented in writing as he is in painting or if he had a ghost writer – but I couldn’t put the book down. He takes the reader through a brief history of the Psychedelic Sixties, the Disco Seventies, the Over Indulgent Eighties, and all the way to the early 2000’s. Forging art was his life and, according to his website (kenperenyi.com) it still is, only he’s upfront with the forgery instead of keeping it hidden. Fascinating, truly fascinating. If you like books about interesting people, read this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because I couldn’t put it down, I just read straight through to the end.

Reviewer:

jack-loc

Jack

Parlor Cats

parlor-cats

Parlor Cats
A Victorian Celebration

Cynthia Hart, John Grossman and Josephine Banks
Workman Publishing, 1991

From the dust jacket: “As with the Queen, so with the Empire: when Victoria revealed a love for cats, her people elevated their tabby mousers to a position unrivaled since ancient Egypt. Celebrating that great era of ailurophilia are Cynthia Hart and John Grossman, the arbiters of Victoriana whose books include A Victorian Scrapbook, Joy to the World and Forget-Me-Nots, as well as the best-selling Victoriana Calendar.
“Peeking out from lushly layered collages, here are endearing Victorian cats drawn from a museum-quality collection of antique paper ephemera and surrounded by the spirited tale of a feline renaissance that spread from Buckingham Palace to the parlors of Boston. Generously quoting poetry, nursery rhymes, Godey’s Lady’s Book, and popular authors such as Edward Lear and Rudyard Kipling, each precious page of Parlor Cats evokes in image and word an age that personified the cat as the epitome of domestic value.”

Unlike the previously reviewed book, The Photographed Cat, which covers part of the same time period (late 1800s through the first decade of the 1900s) this book is immensely more readable. Probably because it was written for the general public whereas The Photographed Cat is a more scholarly work. But even if you don’t read it, it’s still quite a book to look at. The cat collages are beautiful: a combination of paper, jewelry, flowers and much more.

Some of the Victorian items showcased include holiday cards, paper images (clip art), calling cards, postcards, jewelry, paintings, advertisements and porcelain figurines. The ads show cats and kittens hawking all kinds of products: shoe polish, cigarettes, snaps, thumbtacks, cigars and soap powder. This is the time of Beatrix Potter and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat. If you’re looking for inspiration or if you collect cat books, this one is not to be missed.

Rating: 5 of 5 paws because it’s a gorgeous book of illustrated cats and inspired mom to go shopping for all things cat!!

Reviewer:

simon-loc

Simon

 

The Photographed Cat

photgraphed-cat

The Photographed Cat:
Picturing Human-Feline Ties, 1890-1940

Arnold Arluke & Lauren Rolfe
Syracuse University Press, 2013

From the book jacket: “With more than 130 illustrations, The Photographed Cat: Picturing Human-Feline Ties, 1890-1940 is both an archive and an analytical exploration of the close relationships between people and their cats during a period significant for photography and for modern understandings of animals as pets. This volume examines the cultural implications of feline companions while also celebrating the intimacy and joys of pets and family photographs. In seven thematic sections, Arluke and Rolfe engage with the collection of antique images as representations of both real and ideal relationships, nothing the cultural tends and tropes that occur. Whether as surrogate children, mascots or companions to women, cats are a part of modern American life and visual culture.
“Entertaining, smart, and filled with a collector’s trove of wonderful images, The Photographed Cat pays homage to the surprising range of relationships we have with cats and offers thoughtful consideration of the ways in which represent them.”

The Photographed Cat is more of a scholarly work than a book of photographs. The photos are really wonderful and I wish there were more of them. While people have changed the way they look, cats don’t ever change. The cat next to the little boy in 1890 looks like the cat sitting next to a child today which goes to show you humans how reliable and faithful we are!!

I will admit that I really didn’t read the book. When my Aunt Sabina picked-up this book from the library, she thought it was a coffee table book. But as I looked at it, I realized I didn’t want to read the “analytical exploration of the close relationships between people and their cats” as much as look at the lovely photographs. From the few snippets I did read the book is fascinating but a bit like reading homework for a sociology course. So, I just mainly stuck to the photographs and enjoyed them a lot.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because the photograph collection is amazing!!

Reviewer:

jack-loc

Jack

 

If It Fits, I Sits

if-it-fits

If It Fits, I Sits
Cats in Awkward Places

Gallery Books, 2016

From the back of the book, “Anyone who knows cats knows how much they love squeezing themselves into weird, uncomfortable-looking, and unfortunate places. And they do it with such aplomb! Will we ever know why? Probably not. With more than one hundred photos of cats caught in the act, If It Fits, I Sits celebrates the quirky, adorable, no-nonsense spirit of felines everywhere.”

It’s amazing what we felines can get up to, isn’t it? We can get ourselves in the craziest places and in the oddest positions and still be comfortable. This book is full of photos of cats doing just that and some of them are really funny.

I will admit I was worried a little when I saw some of the photos of cats and kittens in outdoor places. I hoped they weren’t strays left to fend for themselves. And that brings up the only thing I didn’t like about the book – that there is no identifiable author and maybe 98% of the photos came from various ‘stock’ sources online. That worries me because with other books, the author/compiler/photographer goes to great length to say no cats were harmed and all the cats were either rescued or adopted. The ones inside are probably fine. But it’s the outdoor kitties where I pause.

Rating 3 out 5 paws only because I worry about the fate of the outdoor kitties in these photos.

if-it-fits-i-sitsReviewer: Simon