The ToB, presented by Field Notes, is here!

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Current Reads

The Artist Accused

A dark chapter in photographer Philippe Halsman's life.

Book Digest Photographer Philippe Halsman snapped some of the planet’s most famous faces—Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bob Hope, and countless others—and his portraits adorned more than 100 Life covers, when the magazine was a weekly publication and a real media force. Drawing on his experiences shooting a gaggle of NBC comedians—including Milton Berle, Ed Wynn, Sid Caesar, Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, and Red Skelton—Halsman famously began asking some of his “serious” subjects (the Ford Family, Richard Nixon) to jump during their photo sessions. For according to Halsman: “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.”

Austin Ratner’s novel The Jump Artist (Bellvue Literary Press) is based on little-recalled events that took place earlier in Halsman’s life, when his father died on a hiking trip through Austria and, in an unbelievable miscarriage of justice, Halsman was accused and convicted of the crime. In what was called “The Austrian Dreyfus Affair,” influential intellectuals (including Einstein) were able to overcome the virulently hostile anti-Semitism of that time and place to secure Halsman’s freedom and exoneration. Ratner’s rendition vividly depicts his character’s ordeal and amazing recovery from the trauma of the event.

Charles Baxter, whose praise should go a long way to helping readers take up this tome, effuses: “This is a book about joy and despair, anti-Semitism and assimilation, and like a great photograph, it seems to miss nothing, and to catch its subject in all his complexity.”
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