Learn to Identify Historical Forgeries

If a newly discovered photo of a famous person has pencil writing on the back, that’s a mark against it being real. Why? Ink is easy to date, and the age of lead is almost impossible to measure. So forgers often use pencils.

You should check out author Joe Nickell – he got started as a forensics investigator and then moved on to investigate historical document forgeries and real-life X-files (always with a skeptical mind of course).

Here’s the table of contents for his book Real or Fake?

pt. I. Documents — Investigating documents — Diary of Jack the ripper — Novel by an American slave — Lincoln’s lost Gettysburg address — An outlaw’s scribblings — Out of the archives — pt. II. Photographs — Photo sleuthing — A second photo of Emily Dickinson — Likenesses of Lincoln — Assassin or look-alike — From the album — pt. III. Other artifacts — Authenticating artworks and other artifacts — Lost icon found — Jefferson Davis’s musket — Debris from the Titanic — Off the shelf.

Highly recommended for the historian’s thought process. Clues reside in the strangest places: a turn of phrase, hairstyle, kind of stamp, anachronisms, as well as technical analysis of ink, paper, handwriting styles and more.

Featured Author: Walter Kirn (Up In The Air)

All Walter Kirn books here

Walter Kirn is an American novelist and journalist who has written for several prominent magazines as well as being the author of Up In The Air (which was made into an excellent film starring George Clooney).

His most recent book is Blood Will Out (link to a review of the book, signin required) –  a fascinating nonfiction account of his relationship with a con man with a murderous past. Excerpt from the review linked above:

“Powerful people fell for a man who said he had a master key to Rockefeller Center.Kirn was targeted for something else. At certain moments of lucidity, Kirn self-flagellates over his phony pal, and the reader feels a little sorry for him. (Yeah, yeah, but first: “In 1975, when I was twelve, my family packed a U-Haul van, snapped a Yale padlock on its rear loading door, and left predictable rural Minnesota for burgeoning, anarchic Phoenix.” Even Walter Kirn‘s hardware is pedigreed.) Kirn writes, “Maybe my egotism was a homing beacon. Maybe it made me a more attractive mark.”

This was the central characteristic of Rockefeller’s frauds–and Crowe’s, and Chichester’s, if not Gerhart’s: their puffed-up prey. The prey who needed some insecurity polished by having nobility, American or otherwise, within their lives. There were the wealthy old ladies threatened by the middle-class-ification of their town. There were the Wall Street men who wanted to employ a broker who was to-the-manor-born and had connections in Hollywood. Then there was the management consultant who wound up leading her firm’s work for Michael Bloomberg and Charles Schumer; her Rockefeller connection could not have hurt her there. And of course there was the educated, snobby journalist on the make, looking for a story and an entrée into society. The people who accepted Gerhartsreiter in his various grandiose guises had hustles of their own. Powerful people within a nation ostensibly impervious to aristocracy fell for a man who said he had a master key to Rockefeller Center. Gerhartsreiter’s joke was on them.”

Featured Author: Rsyzard Kapusckinki, World Journalist/Storyteller

Interested in writing nonfiction, international journalism, or some of the best reportage ever put on paper?

Check out our Rsyzard Kapusckinki books (yes, we have them in English).

Kapusckinki wrote about colonialism in Africa, the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Soccer War in Central America (my personal favorite and you’ll have to get the book to get the whole story).

Often travelling outside the major cities, Kapusckinki regales us with stories of lemonade stands in Central Asia, the circular logic of policeman at an African road checkpoint, mountains of frozen ice from perpetually broken pipes in Siberia, and his comical attempts to navigate a city during a wartime blackout.

Featured Author: Karel Capek (Rossum’s Universal Robots)

All Karel Capek books here.

From Literary Reference Center

Karel Čapek is remembered today for his popularization of the word “robot,” actually first used by his brother Josef in his short story “Opilec” (1917) and used by Karel in R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots, which was first produced in Prague in January, 1921. The word is from the Czech robota, meaning compulsory service or work. Popularizing this word, however, was certainly not Čapek’s most notable professional achievement. A deeply philosophical man, professionally trained as a philosopher, Čapek was the first Czech writer to attract a broad international audience for his works, particularly for his expressionist drama, which has been translated into many languages and has been performed all over the world.

A versatile intellectual, Čapek, during his years on the staff of Lidové noviny, the most influential Czech newspaper, demonstrated by the excellence of his writing that journalism can be an art. He wrote on a broad range of subjects, from Persian rugs to gardening to drama and art. Čapek was also an incisive political thinker who wrote stirring political essays, but his political sentiments achieve a more universal expression in his plays and novels, particularly in such plays as R.U.R., The Insect Play, and Power and Glory and in the novels of his trilogy comprising Hordubal, Meteor, and An Ordinary Life. His novel most familiar to English-speaking audiences is The War with the Newts, which builds directly on much of the social criticism found in R.U.R. and in The Insect Play and which presents one of the earliest direct literary attacks on Hitler. His trilogy has attracted considerable interest for its manner of dealing with the infinite diversity of the human personality.

Staff Picks: Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley)

Patricia Highsmith is best known for her crime novels The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers On A Train – both made into classic films. But she also wrote a lot of other novels and short stories that feature such disparate subjects as animals taking revenge on cruel people, giant snails, and icy and claustrophobic tales of daily life.

In fact, it was the giant snails that got me as a kid. A professor goes in search of legendary giants snails on a Pacific Island and, well, he does find them.

There’s also the dinner party at which the host’s cat brings in a finger, a mysterious furry thing that lives in the birdhouse that may or may not have gotten into the narrator’s house and lots more stories guaranteed to put a chill in your heart.

All Highsmith books here..

Book Review: The Presentation Secrets Of Steve Jobs

I can recommend wholeheartedly The Presentation Secrets Of Steve Jobs.

This book pretty much sums up the current cutting edge approach to presentations – honesty, passion and preparation.  External appearance doesn’t matter so much as authenticity.

There are also tips on how to organize a presentation. For example, define an enemy or problem and show the audience how your idea overcomes the problem.  Also create an a-ha moment that the audience can take home with them mentally.

Along the way, the book also discusses the correct use of slide images and text behind you and the correct use of props. Lots more in this one – check it out.

Literary Passings: E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime)

All Doctorow books here.

From the obituary in The Guardian:

He did not want to be called a political novelist. “My premise is that the language of politics can’t accommodate the complexity of fiction, which as a mode of thought is intuitive, metaphysical, mythic.” Although he wrote lovingly of the lost world of the Jewish Bronx in the 1930s, where he grew up, he rejected the idea that he was an autobiographical writer. “Every book is an act of composition,” he remarked in 1989, “and if you happen to use memories or materials from your own mind, they are like any other resource; they have to be composed. And the act of composition has no regard where the material comes from. So when it’s all done it’s all autobiographical and none of it is.”

Doctorow wrote a handful of the most influential historical novels of the past half-century, but was determined not to be known simply as a historical novelist. Praised for having “done his homework” on the American Civil war for The March (2005), he claimed that he did little research, freely inventing when the historical record seemed somehow incomplete. There is a moving letter in The March sent by the Union generalissimo William Tecumseh Sherman to a Confederate general whose son was killed in battle. But no such letter was ever written.

John Nash, An Appreciation. Author Of Game Theory, Subject of the film A Beautiful Mind

John Nash, a principal originator of game theory, and the subject of the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind was recently killed in an automobile accident.

John Nash titles here. Our copy of a Beautiful Mind here.

Among many contributions, Nash was famous for the Nash equilibrium in game theory. From the obituary in the Guardian:

“In his discipline, he gave his name to the Nash equilibrium – a position in a situation of competition or conflict in which both sides have selected a strategy, but where neither side can then independently change their strategy without ending up in a less desirable position.”