How an Obsesion with Art Crime Became a Thriller – Crime Reads

Artist and author Jonathan Santlofer on the many works examining art fraud, theft, and looting that informed his new book If you have ever wanted to know how it feels to snatch a painting from a museum wall, slide it under your shirt, and take off, then Michael Finkel’s, The Art Thief is for you. Finkel puts you in the scene and in the mind of Stephane Breistwieser, a man who stole more than 200 artworks from European museums and churches for a combined worth of $2 billion dollars. Breistwieser loved art, believed he could take care of it better than any museum, never sold a single piece, and lived with it until he couldn’t (a spoiler I will not disclose). At just over two-hundred-pages it’s a concise page-turner, a book for anyone interested in the criminal mind, with all the daring and chutzpah it takes to steal art, a true tale that will thrill … Read more

Lily (from the The Widower’s Notebook)

For NATIONAL CAT DAY I could not think of anything better than posting this drawing I made of my last cat, Lily, along with this excerpt about her from my memoir THE WIDOWER’S NOTEBOOK (Penguin Books). It’s a bit long but… Beside Joy’s main closet is a tall stack of shelves where her sweaters and tees are neatly stacked. I kept this door closed, but every morning it was open. For a while I thought the magnets that held the door in place must have weakened, or it was some weird settling of the building, though I couldn’t remember it ever happening before. Every night I closed it. Every morning it was open. It started to feel eerie. Then, one morning, still in bed, I saw the door bang open, and Joy’s cat, Lily, jumped out. When I investigated, I saw that she had made a sort of nest on one of the shelves among … Read more

Meeting Mama Cass

Got out my pencils to sketch Cass Elliot on her birthday. Below, something I wrote when I was just out of graduate school, living in Brooklyn (before it was fashionable), and heard that Cass Elliot had died. I remember feeling as if one my friends had died, utterly absurd as I didn’t really know her, but the memory of the two or three hours we’d spent together remained strong. I remembered her deep throaty laugh and how she cried for a moment and how young and stupid I was, and to this day feel a mix of excitement and sadness when I hear one of her songs. Meeting Mama Cass I used to say I’d become an artist so I could listen to music all day, and I did. Unlike today, when just about everyone gets their music on demand through Spotify or iTunes or Sirius, back then music came in the form of a … Read more

Lit Hub: On Men and Grief: Dispatches from my Book Tour

A hand goes up from the back of the room. It is an unexpected full house in a southern bookstore where I have been invited to talk about my memoir, The Widower’s Notebook. The man, late middle age, salt and pepper hair, says, “My best buddy lost his wife a couple of months ago. I’ve been trying to get him out, inviting him to ballgames, drinks, dinner. Nothing works. Should I keep trying or leave him alone? I just… don’t… know.” His voice cracks on the last couple of words. I take a moment. I say, “Look, I’m no expert and I don’t know your friend, it may be too soon for him, but I’d say keep trying. Some of us push people away when what we really want is the opposite. Maybe men do that because we’re brought up with the idea that we’re supposed to tough things out, not ask for help, or … Read more

The Sunday Times of London – In a Time of Grief, Turning to Art

Here’s an essay The Times and The Sunday Times of London, asked me to write about The Widower’s Notebook. Read the original article here. Friday, August 16, 2013 appeared to be a normal day. My wife, Joy, had undergone minor out-patient knee surgery — the routine repairing of a torn tendon — and was resting at home, her leg up, re-reading her notes for Food City, a book she had been writing for several years. What did we talk about? Dinner? Going away for the weekend? Our daughter? An ordinary day. I went out to buy more ice for Joy’s leg and she switched from research to reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Earlier she had complained that her leg felt twitchy, and I thought she looked and felt a bit feverish. She called the doctor’s office and was told not to worry and to come in next week for her post-op appointment. “No one wants … Read more

The Line-Up: Hollywood Murder

Hey folks. A piece I wrote re-imagining the Lana Turner / Johnnny Stampanato murder case, in the voices of the participants, is on The Lineup today. I did a few sketches to accompany it as well. Please have a look. I hope you enjoy it.


  I just saw Philip Seymour Hoffman’s posthumous last film, “A Most Wanted Man.” And maybe it’s too easy to say in retrospect but it was like watching a man on a suicide mission, chain-smoking, wheezing, overweight, rarely making eye contact with the camera as if he was embarrassed. (Yes, it’s an internal performance, but still.) No question he’s the most soulful of actors with a kind of sweet/tragic beauty but in this movie he just seems ill. Watching Hoffman was, for me, like a recent viewing of “The Misfits,” the last film for Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable (an unlikely romantic couple, Gable 59 and looking 65; Monroe 33 looking 40), though Monroe had once fantasized Gable was her father. Still beautiful though bloated, bad-wigged, boozy and sometimes dazed, Monroe’s is a brave performance but difficult to watch, almost too naked and revealing. I mentioned this to Joyce Carol Oates, who didn’t agree that Marilyn … Read more

Catching Up & Going Ape

Dear friends, It’s been a long time since I have written anything on my website and I apologize. It was a necessary break for personal reasons. But I have been working and will tell you just a few of things I’ve been up to. For the moment I have put aside the book I’d been working on for well over a year, a story about a cop who lost his family, a novel based in part on “Crime & Punishment.” The book was finished but not resolved and it needed time to percolate, so hopefully it’s doing just that while I work on other things. I’ve been thinking… That people often say a writer’s characters are variations of his or herself and I used to agree. Now, I’m not so sure. One’s art—writing, painting, music—is of course always a reflection of the person who made it. But the characters one creates on the page can … Read more

“Picasso Baby” or Pop Meets Performance (and Guess Who Wins?)

Pop. Of course. How could it not? I mean Jay Z versus Marina Abramovic? Gimme a break. Though their stare contest is pretty amusing. And it was kind of genius to have her in the mix: performance meets performance! I could kick myself for not being there. Had I known in advance I would have used every art world connection I have. My doppelganger, art critic Jerry Saltz, was there (I used to be mistaken for him all the time. Once, in a Chelsea gallery, the woman behind the desk asked, “When did you get the hairpiece, Jerry?” I said, “That’s not a nice thing to say, I’m not Jerry Saltz and do you think I’d pay for this lousy hair?” She said, “Oh, c’mon, Jerry.” There have been numerous other times equally funny and strange. I’ve thought about going home to Roberta Smith to test it out then thought better of it. And if … Read more