Books: Worth 1,000 Words?

Two new titles join the burgeoning genre of novels about the edifying and (mostly) sexy world of art

Who says the book business doesn't care about art anymore? It's not the art of fiction we have in mind here. It's fiction that manages to work in a few Italian frescoes or a Dutch still life. Stirred by the success of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, about a household servant who inspires Vermeer, publishers have rushed in with titles like Christopher Peachment's Caravaggio; Will Davenport's The Painter, about Rembrandt; and Mario Vargas Llosa's The Way to Paradise, about Gauguin. As a rule, the books are intelligent, sometimes even ingenious, but in most, the underlying formula is plain: art...

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