Most artists are forgotten. Some are astonishing. How to Collect Great Art on a Shoestring, a how-to guide for new and experienced collectors, explores the opportunity to acquire one-of-a-kind works by major artists on a shoestring budget. The author David L. Gersh talks with Book Glow about why he decided to write the book.
Describe the book in one sentence.
I could do that, but it would be a very long sentence. How to Collect Great Art on a Shoestring is about forgotten artists whose work is in the collections of MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Whitney. Their original paintings, many of which are wonderful, can be acquired for a few thousand dollars if you know where and how to look.
Why did you write this book? You only wrote fiction before, right?
That’s true. I wrote art world fiction. But my wife Anne and I were also collecting art and I came to realize we were buying great art by important artists for very little money. The joy of living with great art is so profound, I wanted to share it.
I finally realized what was happening with our collecting. I wish I’d had that knowledge when I was 35. I could have had a lot of more joy in my life and I simply wanted others to experience the joy of living with great art.
What did you learn in writing this book?
I thought I knew a lot about art and about collecting. What I didn’t know was astounding. Even things that were basic, like the difference between prints and multiples. This has been a great learning experience for me. And humbling.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It took about a year. I wrote and edited six drafts. Can you imagine how boring that gets?
Where do you write?
My “office” is on our kitchen counter, facing the refrigerator. When we built our house, our architect discovered that I did not like to be confined to an office. And I sometimes write at our local coffee shop. I find it is comforting for me to be around people.
Do you prefer writing in one genre over another?
I write primarily art world mysteries. I have written three: Art is Dead, Going, Going, Gone and Art Attack. But I like to experiment. I have written a comic mystery in the first-person voice, Desperate Shopgirls, which was an entirely new experience.
And I have written a Civil War historical fiction, The Whisper of a Distant God, based on a true battle that took place in New Mexico. The book is in the form of reports, letters, newspaper articles as well as first and third person dialogue. That book took me seven years and the research I needed to do was incredible. I guess I have to keep myself amused.
Is there any one thing especially frustrating to you about the writing process?
Yes. Doing it. People say that a real writer would rather pave his driveway than write. That is true, at least for me. It is hard. And then I have to find the right words to convey my thoughts. Finding the right words can be infuriatingly difficult.
Is there one book that most influenced your life?
Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth. I came out of Harvard Law School functionally illiterate. Oh, I could read and write, but it seemed I had been going to trade schools all my life. I mean that I was an accounting major at U.C.L.A. Then I got an MBA in accounting and became a CPA. Then I trundled off to law school.
I knew nothing about literature. A friend loaned me Giles Goat-Boy and that started me on a 50-year journey in books and reading. Thank you, Mr. Barth.
Any advice to novice writers?
Perhaps I should explain that. All writers have to be avid readers. By plagiarize, I don’t mean you should copy words. I mean that you should think about how an author tells his or her story. What makes it interesting and compels you to read on. How does the author makes characters come alive? What is the structure of the story?
Then you should adopt what you have learned. Plagiarize.
The fictional world I create is very real to me. I find that I am missing the characters in my art world mysteries. I would like to know what they’re up to. So I think I will visit them next.