Art heists = good summer reading

August 18, 2010


Summer at least has the reputation of being this lazy season of laying by the lake, reading paperbacks and consuming copious amounts of barbecue. But, as you and I know, summer is a liar,  because the only thing I’ve had in that list is a copious amount of barbecue, and that was a lot of work to prepare.

Now, like every good Minnesotan who suddenly realizes it’s August and the impending gloom of winter is glowing on the horizon, I’m looking back on these few months of warm-weather bliss and wondering where it all went.

Unlike most good Minnesotans, I can tell you exactly where it went: to researching and writing papers for my summer graduate school class and internship.

Yes, I spent summer inside a library.

However, should the day ever come that something called “reading for fun” is part of my life again ( I have a vague memory of this from my high school years), I’m going to pick up this book that Dan Browning reviewed in the StarTribune. It’s called “Priceless: How I went Undercover to Rescue to World’s Stolen Treasures” by Robert K. Wittman, and Browning describes it as exactly the kind of book you’d want to read lying by the lake.

It’s not just about art and artifacts. It’s a memoir about (FBI agent) Wittman’s experience, and it’s apparently hard hitting on the the federal investigative agencies, and it also explores the racial prejudice the author, who has a Japanese mother, felt after WWII.

It was this graph in the review that piqued my interest, however:

Hollywood depicts art thieves as debonair cat burglars — think Cary Grant in “To Catch a Thief” — or as techno-sleuths — Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Entrapment” come to mind. “Priceless” introduces the reader to some thieves like that, but also to simple fools who snatched an opportunity. The one thing that ties them together, Wittman writes, is “brute greed.”

“They stole for money, not beauty,” he said.

What? An unromantic heist? Could it be? Either way, this one looks worth a read.

If you pick it up, let me know how it turned out. I’ll be in the library.

About Maria Wiering

Maria Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit.

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