ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, William Morrow & Company, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Editor, writer, and publisher. Formerly worked at United Media; Scribner, New York, NY, former senior editor; Harmony Books, New York, NY, former executive editor; former comics publisher; Riverhead Books, New York, NY, executive editor, 2004–.
(Editor) The J. Pretension Catalog: Owner's Manual H2SO4: A Very Tasteful Parody, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.
(As J.P. Morrissey) A Weekend at Blenheim (fiction), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Writings have appeared in numerous periodicals, including Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and San Francisco Chronicle.
SIDELIGHTS: Jake Morrissey has written about architecture for numerous periodicals and is also the author of a novel, a parody, and a book of nonfiction.
In his novel A Weekend at Blenheim, Morrissey tells the story of American John Vanbrugh, who, in 1905, is asked by the duchess of Marlborough, Consuelo Vanderbilt, to remodel part of Blenheim Palace. The duchess chooses Vanbrugh, partially because an earlier renovator had the exact same name. As he works on the remodeling job, Vanbrugh discovers in the walls a hidden, cryptic message involving murder and a love triangle. A sketchbook of nudes also surfaces, to the consternation of some who would prefer that it remain lost. As the mystery advances, the reader becomes aware of parallels between the past and present, not only in the renovator's name but also in the relationship between the current duke and duchess. The period novel also includes such historic characters as artist John Singer Sargent, who is searching for his missing sketchbook, and Winston Churchill.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor called A Weekend at Blenheim a "coldly stylish debut." Another reviewer, writing in Publishers Weekly, felt the novel is "generally suspenseful and entertaining." Rex E. Klett commented in the Library Journal that the author's "incredible knowledge of period, place, and events" make the "mystery a special treat."
In The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome Morrissey delves into the heated rivalry between two seventeenth-century Italian artists. Bernini, who has connections and knows how to gain favor, is named over Borromini as chief architect at St. Peter's in Rome, even though Borromini is chief assistant to the former director who has died. The two work together for a while and virtually create the baroque style of architecture as they progress on various projects. Borromini eventually leaves because of their rivalry, which is fueled by the fact that much of Borromini's work is being credited to Bernini. After years of struggling to find commissions—partly because of his insistence on total autonomy in his work—Borromini commits suicide while Bernini goes on to become perhaps the best-known Italian artist of the period.
In a review of The Genius in the Design, Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen called the book "a highly successful double biography." While a Publishers Weekly contributor felt that the work is "sometimes plodding but often entertaining," a Kirkus Reviews critic commented that the author should be given "credit for not just gleaning cogent commentary from previous volumes on the output of his two subjects but for enhancing it." The reviewer added, "His handling of these personalities and their divergent careers brings … [fresh] passion" to the story.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2002, review of A Weekend at Blenheim, p. 819; February 1, 2005, Bryce Christensen, review of The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome, p. 928.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2001, review of A Weekend at Blenheim, p. 1649; December 15, 2004, review of The Genius in the Design, p. 1188.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of A Weekend at Blenheim, p. 142.
Publishers Weekly, February 11, 2002, review of A Weekend at Blenheim, p. 165; August 23, 2004, "Morrissey Named Editor at Riverhead," p. 7; February 21, 2005, review of The Genius in the Design, p. 172.