I really wanted to like this book. It is based on the life of Clara Driscoll, the women who created the Tiffany lamps, and it has all of the elements...moreI really wanted to like this book. It is based on the life of Clara Driscoll, the women who created the Tiffany lamps, and it has all of the elements of a good story: a turn-of-the-century New York setting, a "strong" female protagonist who must choose between love or her talent, the bonhomie of the art world, etc. Hm. The characters were two-dimensional, there was way too much information about the construction of stained-glass pieces (the book should have included pictures of the pieces so rubes like me could have a greater appreciation of what was created), there was way too much information about how many pieces of glass people made each day, the characters had as much depth as milkglass (meaning that all of the characters were quirky in ways that we want them to be quirky, but that we never really see in real life), and the bonhomie seemed contrived. I think the editor was too kind; there were many scenes that did not add to the plot and bogged the story down, for example, Vreeland describes Clara walking away with someone else's pencil and then turning back to return it to its rightful owner. There was no point (except on the pencil). Only New York fared well, but it's really hard for New York to go wrong. Chigago also makes an appearance as Mr. Tiffany showcases some of his pieces at the 1893 World's Fair, but the descriptions of the exposition seemed like they were lifted out of Erik Larsen's The Devil in the White City (a book You Should Read), but I didn't see any mention of it in Vreeland's acknowledgements. All this book made me want to do was buy a plane ticket to New York with a stop-over in Chicago.(less)
This is not just a history of color, but a bustling travelogue of the world; Victoria Finlay is just my type of traveler-- she has a plan but she does...moreThis is not just a history of color, but a bustling travelogue of the world; Victoria Finlay is just my type of traveler-- she has a plan but she doesn't. She hears of a place where a color was developed and she goes, and hopefully, just hopefully, she meets the right people and finds what she is looking for. It's all very serendipitous. The book is categorized by colors; beginning with the earth tones (which, oddly enough, come from the earth) and moves on to my favorites of green, blues, and violet. While this is fun global romp searching for the origins of color, it is laced with the nostalgia of understanding of how people before us lived, where creating art was in fact creation: from preparing the piece to be painted to crushing, mixing, blending the paint to understanding how different mediums react to each other. Finlay also reaffirms that it is in the pieces imperfections that make them beautiful, and she explains how many beautiful colors relied on shit to be so.
Color is an interesting read, and Finlay is an irreverent, speculative, and open tour guide through the palette.(less)
I LOVE David McCullough; as a matter of fact, I ran out, bought this book, and read it just because it had his name on it. However, The Greater Journe...moreI LOVE David McCullough; as a matter of fact, I ran out, bought this book, and read it just because it had his name on it. However, The Greater Journey is not John Adams, Truman, or Mornings on Horseback. While McCullough excels at writing investigating the life of a man facing extraordinary circumstances (the topic of all three above books listed), he falters at writing about many men and women being influenced by Paris. The first third of the book is choppy, confusing, and riddled with short passages with very short paragraphs about a variety of people. I felt that I was not getting the information that I really wanted about each person. I wish he would stop jumping around and finish the story of that person.
The next two-thirds of the book, he began to hit his stride; mostly because he wrote about Elihu Washburne, the US Ambassador to Paris, who was a man facing extraordinary circumstances during the Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Paris. The last third focused on a group of artists-- John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and he did a really good job explaining why these artists were revolutionary.
However, his scope was too large-- Paris, itself, is quite a demanding study alone, and I feel it would have been better had he chosen to focus on a few Americans to show the influence of Paris-- rather than many who happened to visit/live in Paris and enjoyed it.
If you are interested in American figures and in Paris, it definitely worth the read; I did learn a lot and he does still tell a good story.(less)
Thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The humor jumps off the page and zings with sharp social commentary--about everything. Though it was written 25 years a...moreThoroughly enjoyed this novel. The humor jumps off the page and zings with sharp social commentary--about everything. Though it was written 25 years ago, the themes still ring alarmingly true today. (less)
If Nicholas Sparks were to write a history of Nazi Germany, this would be it. However, the treatment of modern (aka. "Degenerate") art under Hitler an...moreIf Nicholas Sparks were to write a history of Nazi Germany, this would be it. However, the treatment of modern (aka. "Degenerate") art under Hitler and how some tried to save it was interesting. It prompted me to look up works by Paul Klee and Gustav Klimt and order a couple of prints. The frame story with Lauren and Isabella was dry and uninteresting. The author tried to imbue it mystery and tension and failed. Hanna's story was much more compelling.(less)
This should be the perfect book for me: turn of the century Paris, politics, invention, art. But I could only make it to page 95. Jonnes writes well,...moreThis should be the perfect book for me: turn of the century Paris, politics, invention, art. But I could only make it to page 95. Jonnes writes well, but the pacing is stagnant and lacks drama. It is very anecdotal as she pieces together narratives about the players in the World's Fair. There is no sense of the human struggle and toll to build the tower. Also, she is very liberal in her use of quotes. I found myself choosing to grade student essays over reading this book. It's time to move on.(less)