Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir

Michael White. Persea (Norton, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-0-89255-437-9
A poet by trade, White (Vermeer in Hell), confronts ideas about love and loss after being awestruck by Vermeer’s Milkmaid in the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam. Thus begins a personal quest to visit most of the Vermeer paintings in the world and see how they affect him—or not. In the course of this raw memoir, White travels to The Hague, Washington D.C., New York, and London to study Vermeer’s paintings up close and in detail. His readings of the paintings are insightful and reflect his emotion at experiencing firsthand the capability of Vermeer’s genius. Through his eyes, readers see why The Guitar Player is “disconcerting” but The Music Lesson is “intoxicating.” Between museum visits, White explains how his divorce, the death of his first wife, and his history as a recovering alcoholic inform his ideas about eternity and the focus of love. We follow him along on several dates and see how his personal experience with romance and love influences his vulnerability to art. Although there are no illustrations in the book, White’s extensive descriptions will inspire readers to seek out the paintings to further study Vermeer’s motifs and technique. Through his obsession with Vermeer, White has crafted a powerful and affecting memoir that reminds us how art can be salvation. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/26/2015
Release date: 03/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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