The Forgery of Venus
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". . . a virtual psychedelic trip on a sea of inspired prose that warps the very fabric of reality."
The Forgery of Venus: A surreal and disturbing look into the mind of an artist.
An old college chum is invited to a gallery debut of a lost work of Velasquez and to meet his friend who claims to have an interesting tale to tell. With a little bit of personal background, the college chum is plunged into the waking nightmare of Chaz Wilmot, Jr., the artist who claims to have painted the lost Velasquez over four hundred years ago.
Through a series of audio tapes, Chaz unburdens his soul and explains the circumstances of how he forged the lost Velasquez Venus in a tale that has more of Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole about it than truth—or does it?
The mystery of how the creative mind works has always interested scholars and patrons of the arts in their wish to control creative output. Michael Gruber taps into that fantastic world in The Forgery of Venus with mixed results.
Gruber’s premise is incredible. A contemporary artist, while under the influence of an herbal extract, Salvinorin A, forges an unknown Velasquez with such perfect technique that it is indistinguishable from the body of Velasquez’s work. That is not to say that Gruber doesn’t succeed on some levels. On a literary level, the narrative is disconnected and fragmented. It left me shaking my head as if awakening from a particularly vivid dream unsure of where or when I was. Once the confessional part of the story was over and I got back to the impetus for the tale, I had lost all connection with the narrator. On a creative level, the deliberate disconnection is the part of reading The Forgery of Venus that makes the book memorable, a virtual psychedelic trip on a sea of inspired prose that warps the very fabric of reality. I’m still not sure whether or not Chaz Wilmot, Jr. is crazy.
Gruber’s facility with language is such that I was immediately drawn into the artist’s world. The act of painting was detailed in such a way as to make me ache to take up the brush and palette and paint. In other hands, the intricate details of mixing and applying paints and preparing canvas would have been tedious, but Gruber imbues them with a surreal and exhilarating zest that left me gasping and anxious for more.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell