I’ve managed to squeeze a couple of “books for me” into a semester dominated by YA literature. You certainly won’t see me complaining, but I decided not to inundate you with reports of these backlist classics. At least, that’s my latest excuse for my sporadic blogging. That said, I am planning a YA post in the near future but I promise it will be well curated.
The books I’d like to discuss now, however, are Julie Klausner’s I Don’t Care about Your Band and Robert Wittman’s Priceless: one, a dating memoir, the other on art crime. I realize that this is a bit like comparing cupcakes and razor blade-laden apples, but a different part of me thrills at the thought of each one. And so it was with these utterly different, yet entertaining memoirs. Let’s get started!
I Don’t Care about Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated
By Julie Klausner
I Don’t Care about Your Band marks the first “girlie” piece of non-fiction I’ve ever read. It is a genre which typically makes me wrinkle my nose and dismiss it out of hand. The only reason I went for this one is that I adore Julie Klausner. She is the smart, hilarious, and adorable host of the podcast, How Was Your Week?, which I strongly urge everyone to listen to as soon as you’ve finished reading this post. I felt a kinship to her because we both enjoy snacks, basset hounds, musicals, tights, and The Emperor’s New Groove. How could someone I like so much write a book that I would hate? Even as I rationalized, the “ChickLit” warning light blinked on in my mind. It would simply have to be ignored. I approached Klausner’s book with same the grim resolve I do a fluffy John Cusack or Drew Barrymore romcom. Do I want to watch another fluffy romcom? Not particularly, but my love for these individuals will always prevail.
I decided to put my faith in Julie and gave her novel a shot, figuring it could be my literary green eggs and ham. And you know what? I actually quite enjoyed it, just as Dr. Seuss predicted. Klausner gives a humorous account of her dating misadventures from childhood (having missed the “boys are gross” stage of development and adopted a Miss-Piggy-style of pursuing them) to her thirties. She focuses on boyfriends/relationships gone wrong without being sappy, self-depricating, or malicious–all things I’d feared could be within the book’s pages. Instead, much like her podcast persona, she approaches her story with honesty and occasional embarrassment and invites us to laugh along with her. This book has a good heart and strong spirit, which I believe to be its best features. Klausner exposes her past mistakes and folly with the clear message of saying, “Ladies, don’t be ridiculous like I was,” and seeks to boost female self-worth without preaching. She’s a feminist who loves being a girl, and I love that about her. Wait, it’s possible to wear a party dress and be an intelligent human? Get out of town!
I Don’t Care about Your Band is a fast, fun read that I’m glad I gave a chance. I think that you should too. You could read it on a plane. You could read it on a train. You could read it in a box. You could read it with a fox!
Moving right along, I’d like to turn now to Priceless: How I Went Under Cover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by…
Priceless is Wittman’s account of his career as founder of the FBI’s Art Crime unit and details many of the audacious thefts he brought to light. This book grabbed my attention because I’d been on an art heist kick fueled by two excellent documentaries–The Art of the Steal (about the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia) and Stolen (the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft)–and Wittman, it turned out had ties to both. I was pleased to find that the book starts off with the Gardner case, which if you are unfamiliar, is the largest art robbery in history. Two thieves disguised as cops gained entry to the museum on March 18, 1990 and made off with 13 pieces of art valued at $500 million. This heist has become legendary, not only for the sheer scale of it, but because it remains unsolved.
Wittman lures in the reader with this tempting morsel only to withhold its conclusion until the final chapters of the book. In between, he discusses how he made the jump from his father’s antique shop to the FBI and how he learned to be an art-savvy undercover agent (enter the Barnes Foundation!). He carefully interweaves a variety of cases on which he built his career with art history, undercover pointers, agency politics, and a constant devotion to his family. The end result is a fascinating look into a criminal underworld through the eyes of a good man. It is easy to lose yourself in this book and for all Wittman’s protestations that real art crime is nothing like The Thomas Crown Affair, his memoir is even more engrossing.