The female subject absorbed in a book has prompted masterworks from Vermeer, Monet, Vuillard and Matisse, among many others. Less often portrayed are men in the act of reading–even Manet’s portrait of Emile Zola depicts the writer staring away from his open volume. Is it the supposed passivity of this act that has discouraged men from modeling it? This mini-genre remains even less explored yet by photographers, though it surely offers the supreme opportunity for coaxing subjects of either sex into unself-consciousness, if not outright reverie. In Zero Mostel Reads a Book, Robert Frank takes a male comic actor for his subject but flouts the genre’s quietist sobriety in every way possible. Mostel is depicted in cartoonish dimensions, bemused, baffled and apoplectic, as he makes his way through an unidentified hardback volume, while seated at a table or on a sofa in a large lounge area. First published in 1963 by The New York Times “for the fun of it” and a collector’s item ever since, this lovely publication relates a series of theatrical and playful vignettes in which Mostel’s most famous roles–Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Max Bialystock in The Producers–are clearly signaled. It is a delightful moment of slapstick in the Frank oeuvre.