By Susan Salter Reynolds, Special to the Los Angeles Times
June 27, 2010
How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
Robert K. Wittman with John Shiffman
Crown: 320 pp., $25
Robert K. Wittman has saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art: Goyas and Brueghels, Renoirs and Rembrandts, a Rodin sculpture, hundreds of heirlooms and priceless antiques. Chasing a Rolls-Royce along a Miami freeway or breaking up a European crime ring, he also offers his theory behind the 1990 heist at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum amounting to more than $500 million. The former FBI agent's blunt language, keen instincts, common sense and profound respect for art are all over this riveting memoir. He's an undercover genius, a man who puts things back in their rightful places. This should be a TV series.
Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 290 pp., $27
It begins with the legend of the Collyer brothers in New York, buried under their own stuff, so deep the police, in 1947, couldn't get in the front door. That's just a friendly warning. The allure of free stuff, the beauty of piles, the self-deceptions of the collector. It's all here. And you are in here somewhere, eyes glazed, fragmented, stuffed into a corner with your stuff. Things can't make you happy. Or can they? (On the last page: a few recommendations for getting help.)
The Real Life Drama of a Summer at Stagedoor Manor, the Famous Performing Arts Camp
Free Press: 212 pp., $25
Stagedoor Manor, the theater camp in the Catskills, has, since 1975, attracted Hollywood spawn and Broadway babies. Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh and Natalie Portman went there. Nora Ephron, Bruce Willis and Meat Loaf sent their children there. The promise: Work hard and you will be a star. Mickey Rapkin reports from the front lines, looking for talent — the meaning of talent, the promises and disappointments of talent. Casting directors and agents pass through; kids learn to give their all, they learn how to fail and try again. Lose heart. Find it. Share the stage.
Random House: 222 pp., $22
It's eighth grade, and Seymour meets Elliot. Life has been dull, but never again. Elliot is the richest little eighth-grader in America, heir to everything. Seymour is his school project: Take a decent boy and make him bad. "You're just a hobby! A mouse I've been playing with! And now I'm through playing!" It's a game of Monopoly using real people, real money. Guess who has the last word?
Salter Reynolds is a writer in Los Angeles.
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