Saturday, December 20, 2014

Brief Reviews

39. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher



Six-Word Review:

Gift for erudite academic, otherwise forgettable.

Slightly Longer Review:

A library browse find, Dear Committee Members was an entertaining read for the two hours it took me to finish. The conceit is a novel written entirely in letters of recommendation from one roguish professor. The letters are witty and verbose, and sure to bring a smile of recognition to the face of any academic. Many a faculty member will wish they had the cojones to compose such missives. Unfortunately, however, the plot is thin and plays on stereotypes without transcending them. Ultimately, Dear Committee Members is funny but forgettable, though perhaps a good gag gift for the English professor in your life.

40. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova



Six-Word Review:

Brooding artists abound; no real swans.

Slightly Longer Review:

I purchased this audiobook back in July, but due to a number of interesting circumstances, didn't get it back in my possession until December. It was still quite useful in alleviating my long commutes. It is, at heart, a book about art and psychology, and probably not something I would have read if not in need of a cheap and easily accessible audiobook. There are multiple storylines, narrated by a number of different characters, that are not convincingly told in past tense. Kostova's flair for description is such that I would never believe the narrators were not speaking as they experienced. This actually made for a very difficult suspension of disbelief, but I tried. The main conceit, centered around art, and a (fictional) work of art in particular, was interesting, and got me thinking and excited about art in ways that I honestly rarely am (When I say "art," here, I mean specifically drawing and painting, I have never had trouble valuing literature or drama!). In any case, I really want to see the Degas in the Met (and, okay, actually I've been excited about Degas since I read B.A. Schapiro's The Art Forger, a much better book about art, but still). ANYWAY. The Swan Thieves has a somewhat misleading title, intriguing characters, vivid description, and a mediocre plot. Read it if you're a fan of Impressionist art, especially if you frequent the Smithsonian, the Met, and/or the Louvre.

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