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text 2017-08-01 22:12
England (the Southern / Central Part), from East to West and Back: Bookish Souvenirs
Jane Austen's Hampshire - Terry Townsend
The Book of Margery Kempe - Margery Kempe,Barry Windeatt
Intimate Letters of England's Queens - Margaret Sanders
1415: Henry V's Year of Glory - Ian Mortimer
Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors - Chris Skidmore
Constable in Love: Love, Landscape, Money and the Making of a Great Painter - Martin Gayford
The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science - Andrea Wulf
The House of Rothschild: Volume 2: The World's Banker: 1849-1999 - Niall Ferguson
The Malice of Unnatural Death - Michael Jecks
The Late Show - Michael Connelly

The Trip:

* Chiltern Hills and Thames Valley (to mystery lovers, aka "Midsomer County" -- though given that this is an area chock-full of quintessential(ly) English villages, it's no surprise that it also routinely provides locations for other series, such as Inspector Morse, The Vicar of Dibley, and of course, adaptations of Agatha Christie's mysteries ... Christie herself, after all, also spent her last years in this area, in a village just outside of Wallingford, where she is also buried.)

* Chawton: Jane Austen's home

* Gloucester and Malmesbury

* The Welsh Borderland: The Welsh Marches, Herefordshire, and Shropshire

* Bosworth and Leicester

* East Anglia: Norfolk, Ely, and Stour Valley (aka [John] Constable Country)

 

 

The Souvenirs:

* Jane Austen:

- Pride and Prejudice -- an imitation leather-bound miniature copy of the book's first edition

- Lady Susan -- audio version performed, inter alia, by Harriet Walter

- Teenage Writings (including, inter alia, Cassandra, Love and Freindship, and The History of England)

 

* Terry Townsend: Jane Austen's Hampshire (gorgeously illustrated hardcover)

* Hugh Thomson:

- Illustrations to Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion

- Illustrations to Mansfield Park and Emma

* Pen Vogler: Tea with Jane Austen

 

... plus other Austen-related bits, such as a playing card set featuring Hugh Thomson's illustrations for Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion, two Austen first edition refrigerator magnets, two "Austen 200" designer pens, a Chawton wallpaper design notepad, and a set of Austen-related postcards.

 


* Margery Kempe: The Book of Margery Kempe
* Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love

(have read bits of pieces of both, but never yet the whole thing(s) -- something to be remedied soonish)

* Margaret Sanders (ed.):

- Letters of England's Queens

- Letters of England's Kings

("Queens" looks decidedly more interesting, but I figured since there were both volumes there ... Unfortunately, neither contains any Plantagenet correspondence, though; they both start with the Tudors.)

* Terry Jones: Medieval Lives

* Ian Mortimer:

- The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330

- 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory

* Chris Skidmore: Bosworth -- The Birth of the Tudors

* David Baldwin: Richard III

* Richard Hayman: The Tudor Reformation

* Glyn E. German: Welsh History

(The last two are decidedly more on the "outline" side, but they're useful as fast, basic references)

* Martin Gayford: Constable in Love -- the painter John Constable, that is.

* Andrea Wulf: The Invention of Nature (yeah, I know, late to the party, but anyway ... and at least I got the edition with the black cover!)

* Chris Beardshaw: 100 Plants that almost changed the World (as title and cover imply, nothing too serious, but a collection of interesting tidbits nevertheless)

* Niall Ferguson: The House of Rothschild -- The World's Banker, 1849-1999

 

 

* Michael Jecks, Knights Templar:

- The Leper's Return

- The Boy-Bishop's Glovemaker

- The Devil's Acolyte

- The Chapel of Bones

- The Butcher of St. Peter's

- The Malice of Unnatural Death

   

* Shirley McKay: Hue & Cry (a mystery set in Jacobean St. Andrews, Scotland)

 

... and finally, two present-day mystery/thrillers, just to balance off (well, not really, but anyway ...) all that history:

 

* Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

* Michael Connelly: The Late Show
 

... plus several more mugs for my collection (because I clearly don't own enough of those yet), two Celtic knot bookmarks, a Celtic knot T-shirt, a Celic knot pin, a Celtic knot designer pen (can you tell I really like Celtic knot designs?), assorted handmade soaps and lavender sachets, and assorted further postcards and sticky notes, plus in-depth guidebooks of pretty much every major place I visited (which guidebooks I sent ahead by mail before leaving England, so they're currently still en route to my home).

 

ETA:

Oh, and then there's John le Carré's The Pigeon Tunnel, which I bought at the airport right before my departure and am currently reading.  Books that you buy at the departure for a trip do qualify for a vacation book haul, don't they?

 

 


Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

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review 2017-07-11 00:49
Heretics and Heroes (Hinges of History #6)
Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World - Thomas Cahill

One of the most pivotal periods of Western civilization occurred during the Renaissance and the Reformation, to culturally impactful events that overlapped one another across Europe.  Heretics and Heroes is the sixth book in Thomas Cahill’s series “The Hinges of History” highlighting the artists and the priests that changed how Europe viewed creativity and worshipped God.

 

Cahill begins this volume talking about philosophical struggle over the ages between Plato and Aristotle, through it is the fourth time he has discussed this millennia-long debate during the series it allows Cahill to refer back to it in the text and gives the reader a basis to understand its importance during this era.  Cahill continued setting up both the Renaissance and Reformation by highlighting moments during the Late Middle Ages, especially the effects of the Black Death, leading up to and allowed for these two important moments in Western history to occur.  The ‘discovery’ of the New World by Columbus and rise of the humanists begin the look at the titular heretics and heroes that will dominate the book, using both events Cahill shows the changing trends in Europe just before both the Renaissance and Reformation completely change it.  The Renaissance and it’s complete change of artistic creativity of the previous millennium is taken up first through the lives of Donatello, Leonardo, and Botticelli before focusing on its height and sudden stop as a result of the Counter-Reformation in the life of Michelangelo.  Then, save for a brief look at the art of Northern Europe, Cahill turns to the Reformation of Luther and the Catholic Counter-Reformation with brief looks at the Reformed movements and the development of Anglicanism.

 

The entire book is packed with information in a very conversational style of writing which has always been one of the strengths of Cahill’s writing.  As always with a popular history book, Cahill had to pick and choose what to focus the reader’s attention on while covering as much as possible about the subject he’s decided to write about.  While Cahill is pretty successful at hitting the high points and pointing readers looking for information to the appropriate place to look, his personal opinions at times overwhelm the history and themes he’s trying to bring to fore.  All history authors have their personal opinions influence their work; however Cahill’s armchair psychiatry and personal theological arguments that actually have nothing to do with the debate he’s writing about at that moment in the text.  While Cahill’s personal opinions have been in all of the previous books of the series, this volume it seems to not be subtle but almost blatant.

 

Overall Heretics and Heroes is a fine addition to the “Hinges of History” series written in a very readable style by Cahill.  However, unlike the previous books in which the reader was left with wanting more, the reader will be wishing less of Cahill’s opinion and more of actual facts.  Yet even with this drawback and forewarning a reader will find this book very informative.

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text 2017-06-26 00:05
Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, and London: Shakespeare, Hogwarts, and Shopping
Shakespeare's Gardens - Andrew Lawson,Shakespeare Birthplace Trust,Jackie Bennett
Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life: Treasures from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - Tara Hamling,Delia Garratt
Hamlet: Globe to Globe - Dominic Dromgoole
Year of the Fat Knight: The Falstaff Diaries - Antony Sher
The Lives of Tudor Women - Elizabeth Norton
The Gap of Time - Jeanette Winterson
Vinegar Girl - Anne Tyler
And Furthermore - Judi Dench
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari
The Wrong Side of Goodbye - Michael Connelly

Stratford

 

A Scene at the RSC Book and Gift Shop

 

The date: June 17, 2017. The time: Approximately 10:00AM.

 

TA and friend enter; TA asks for a shopping basket and makes straight for the shelves and display cases. An indeterminate amount of time is then spent browsing. Whenever her friend points out something and asks "Did you see this?", TA silently points to the steadily growing contents of her basket.  Finally, with a sigh, TA makes for the cashier.

 

Shop assistant: I can see why you asked for a basket when you came in ... So, do you come here often?

 

TA: I try to make it every 2 or 3 years.  [With a sheepish grin:]  And yes, my shopping basket does look like that pretty much every single time, I'm afraid.

 

TA's friend: I can confirm that ...

 

TA: Yeah, she's seen my library at home.

 

TA's friend: Err, I can confirm the shopping sprees as well.

 

Shop assistant (ringing up and bagging one item after another): Well, enjoy your, um, reading ...!

 

Similar scenes, albeit minus the above dialogue were repeated at two of the book & gift stores of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Henley Street (WS birthplace) and Hall's Croft (home of his daughter Judith and her husband, Dr. John Hall, a physician) -- where we actually did spend a fair amount of time talking to the museum assistants, too, though, about everything from visiting Shakekspearean sites to Wimbledon tennis.

 

That being said, we "of course" paid our (well, my) hommage to the Bard, from Trinity Church to the two above-mentioned Shakespeare family houses (return visits all to me, though Hall's Croft was new to my friend), and just as importantly, we had tickets for two of the current "Roman plays" season productions:

 

(1) Antony & Cleopatra, starring Josette Simon and Anthony Byrne in the title roles, with Andrew Woodall as Enobarbus:  One of the best productions of this particular play that I've ever seen.  Josette Simon alone was worth the price of admission ten times over, plus she and Byrne played off each other magnificently, and Andrew Woodall was unlike any Enobarbus I'd seen before, wonderfully highlighting the ironic subtext of his character's lines and giving him more than a hint of a laconic note.  If you're in England and anywhere near Stratford, run and get a ticket for this production ... or if you don't make it all the way to Warwickshire, try to catch it in London when they move the production there.

 

(2) Julius Caesar, starring Andrew Woodall as Caesar and James Corrigan as Marc Antony.  I liked this one, too -- how can any RSC production ever be bad?! -- but by far not as much as Antony and Cleopatra on the night before.  Woodall was a fine Caesar, even if actually a bit too like his Enobarbus (which I might not have found quite as obvious if I hadn't seen both plays practically back to back, on two consecutive nights), and the cast generally did a good job, but this was clearly a "look at all our up-and-coming-talent" sort of production, with almost all of the play's lead roles given to actors who were easily 5, if not 10 or more years younger than the parts they played, which didn't quite work for me -- these people are Roman senators and generals, for crying out loud, and for the most part the requisite gravitas simply wasn't there (yet); even if the talent clearly was.  What a contrast to the very age-appropriate and, as I said, just all around magnificent production of Antony and Cleopatra ... Still, I'm by no means sorry we went to see this, and it's obvious even now that we'll be seeing a lot more of these actors in years to come.

 

We also managed to snag last-minute tickets for a "behind the scenes" tour -- I'd done one in 2014 already, but was more than happy to repeat the experience!  Now I only wish our own opera and theatre company had half the resources that the RSC has at its disposal ...

 

    
Photos, from top left:

1. Shakespeare's bust, above his grave in Trinity Church

2. Shakespeare's epitaph, on his gravestone (photo from 2014, since I didn't get a really good one this time around. N.B., the photo is actually upside down, for somewhat greater ease of reading the inscription.)

3. Trinity Church -- the graves of Shakespeare and his family are located in the part to the left of the tower.

4. River Avon, with RSC Theatre and, in the background, the spire of Trinity Church

5. RSC Theatre

6. Shakespeare's Birthplace (Henley Street)

7.Shakespeare Birthplace Trust centre, next to the actual Henley Street Birthplace building

8. Hall's Croft, garden view

9.New Place and Guild Chapel (photo from 2014)

10. New Place gardens, looking towards RSC and Swan Theatres (also a photo from 2014 -- we didn't make it inside New Place this time around, though we did pass by there on our way from our B&B to the RSC theatre and to Henley Street and back).

 

Now, since Manuel Antao elsewhere insisted on "the full list" -- the grand total result of the above-mentioned shopping sprees, plus a brief supplementary foray into an airport W.H. Smith, was the following:

 

CDs:

* William Shakespeare: Antony & Cleopatra: Music and Speeches from the 2017 Royal Shakespeare Company Production

* William Shakespeare: Julius Caesar: Music and Speeches from the 2017 Royal Shakespeare Company Production

* William Shakespeare: King Lear: Music and Speeches from the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company Production -- which alas I had to miss, but it starred Antony Sher as Lear, whom I saw as Falstaff in 2014 ... which in turn was just about all the reason I needed to get the audio version of his Lear, too.

*  William Shakespeare: The Tempest: Music and Speeches from the 2016 Royal Shakespeare Company Production -- which I also had to miss, but I figured even if I was a year late ... (plus, Simon Russell Beale as Prospero and directed -- like the 2016 Lear -- by Gregory Doran ...?!)

*  William Shakespeare: King Richard III, full cast audio recording starring Kenneth Branagh -- a long-time must-have from my TBR or, err, "to-be-listened-to" list.

The British Library, with Ben and David Crystal: Shakespeare's original pronunciation: Speeches and scenes performed as Shakespeare would have heard them -- there's a video version of this on Youtube (I think Lora posted about it here a while back), and if you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend remedying that sooner rather than later.  It gives you a whole new insight into Shakespeare's use of language ... down to lingusitic puns, allusions and images that you really only pick up on once you've heard what the Bard and his original audiences would have heard in the delivery of the respective lines.

 

Books: 

*  Jackie Bennett, with photographs by Andrew Lawson: Shakespeare's Gardens -- a lavishly illustrated coffee table book-sized guide to the gardens Shakespeare knew (or might have known) both in Stratford / Warwickshire and in London, as well as on the gardens of the five Shakespeare-related houses in and around Stratford, with an introductory chapter on Tudor gardening in general.  THE find of several great finds of this trip.  (And it's even an autographed copy ... as I only discovered when I unpacked the book back home!)

*  Roy Strong: The Quest for Shakespeare's Garden -- similar to the above (though smaller in format) and a great complementary book, with plenty of historical illustrations and leading up to a focus on the New Place garden, which has painstakingly been restored in period style in recent years.

*  Delia Garratt and Tara Hamling (eds.): Shakespeare and the Stuff of Life: Treasures from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust -- an illustrated guide to Shakespeare's life and times in the style of the recently-popular "so-and-so [insert topic] in 100 objects" books, with 50 representative objects covering the key aspects of Shakespeare's life from cradle to grave.

*  Peter Sillitoe & Maurice Hindle (ed.): Shakespearean London Theatres -- what the title says, but with a handy walking map allowing the aficionado to trace not merely the locations of the various theatres but also get a sense of the areas where they were located ... or at least, their respective modern incarnations.

*  Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells (eds.), with contributions by, inter alia and in addition to the editors, Graham Holderness, Charles Nicholl, Andrew Hadfield and John Jowett, and an afterword by James Shapiro: Shakespeare Beyond Doubt -- a scholarly refutation of the various "alternate authorship" theories.

*  Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells (eds.), with contributions by, inter alia and in addition to the editors, Michael Wood, Graham Holderness, Germaine Greer and Andrew Hadfield, and an afterword by Margaret Drabble: The Shakespeare Circle -- a collective biography of Shakespeare's family, friends, business associates and patrons; a bit like Stanley Wells's earlier Shakespeare & Co., but not merely focusing on the other key figures of Elizabethan theatre, and with individual chapters / essays designated to individual persons (or families), instead of the continuous narrative contained in Shakespeare & Co.

*  James Shapiro: 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear -- pretty much what the title implies; a follow-up to Shapiro's earlier focus on Shakespeare's life in 1599.

*  Frank Kermode: Shakespeare's Language -- also pretty much what the title says, with a joint examination of the pre-Globe plays' poetic and linguistic characteristics and a play-by-play examination of the last 16 plays, beginning with Julius Caesar.

*  Dominic Dromgoole: Hamlet: Globe to Globe -- the Globe Theatre Artistic Director's account of their recent, 2-year-long venture of taking a production of Hamlet to (literally) every single country in the world.

*  Antony Sher: Year of the Fat Knight: The Falstaff Diaries -- a must-read for anyone who's been fortunate enough to see the RSC's 2014 productions of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and still a rioting good read if you haven't.  Plus, the most amazing sketches by Sher himself ... the man is an artist several times over!

*  Antony Sher & Gregory Doran: Woza Shakespeare! Titus Andronicus in South Africa -- not new, but it's been on my TBR for a while and I figured while I was at it ...

*  Sheridan Morley: John Gielgud: The Authorized Biography -- comment unnecessary.

* Jonathan Croall, with a prologue by Simon Callow: Gielgoodies! The Wit and Wisdom [& Gaffes] of John Gielgud -- a frequently hilarious complementary read to the above bio.

*  Harriet Walter: Brutus and Other Heroines: Playing Shakespeare's Roles for Women -- plus, I might add, plenty of insight into Shakespearean theatre in particular and acting in general.

*  Harriet Walter: Other People's Shoes: Thoughts on Acting -- as the title implies, more of the above, though minus the near-exclusive focus on Shakespeare. (Instead, however, also a professional autobiography of sorts.)

*  Judi Dench: And Furthermore -- her memoirs.  Very much looking forward to this one.

*  Jeanette Winterson: The Gap of Time -- Hogarth Shakespeare adaptation series, The Winter's Tale.

*  Anne Tyler: Vinegar Girl -- Hogarth Shakespeare adaptation series, The Taming of the Shrew.

* Howard Jacobson: Shylock Is My Name -- Hogarth Shakespeare adaptation series, The Merchant of Venice. (I could have gone on and gotten more of those, but I figured I'd limit myself to three to begin with ... :) )

*  Ian Doescher: William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope -- I know, I know.  Everybody but me has already read it at this point.

*  Elizabeth Norton: The Lives of Tudor Women -- a(nother) proximate choice, since I've spent so much time in their world (and that of their Plantagenet sisters / ancestors) recently, thanks in no small part to Samantha [Carpe Librum]!

*  Robert Harris: Imperium -- Cicero trilogy, book 1.  And yes, there is a Shakespeare connection even here ... think " 'twas all Greek to me."  (Also, as was to be expected, the RSC bookstore had Harris's complete Roman series on their shelves as companion reads (of sorts) to their current Roman  plays season.)

*  Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind -- no Shakespeare connection here; unless Harari should be (justly) citing to Shakespeare as an exponent of human genius, that is.  Anyway, this is where the airport W.H. Smith came in handy.

*  Michael Connelly: The Wrong Side of Goodbye -- see Harari above! :)

 

Plus a blue RSC silk scarf, a Macbeth quote T-shirt (can't have too much of the Scottish play, ever), a First Folio canvas bag (had to get something to carry all my new treasures home in, after all), a couple of Shakespeare- and Tudor-related postcards, and of course a few more Shakespeare quote mugs and refrigerator magnets for my respective collections.

 

Oxford

On the way from London to Stratford, we'd stopped by in Oxford: This being merely an extended weekend trip, we didn't have a lot of time, but since our last attempt to visit this half of Oxbridge had literally been drowned by floods of torrential rain (so we ended up spending virtually all the time in the Museum of Natural History), I'd promised my friend a short visit at least -- all the more since I myself had actually spent a few days in Oxford in the interim with my mom. Well, with the weather cooperating this time around, we at least managed a stroll along Broad Street and down Catte Street to Radcliffe Square, then past St. Mary's Church to "the High," a brief climb up Carfax Tower, and finally a visit to Hogwarts, err, Christchurch College (Tom Quad, Chapel, Great Hall and all).

 

 



Photos, from top left:

1. View from Radcliffe Square down Catte St.: Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library to the left; Hereford College to the right.

2. View from Carfax Tower towards St. Mary's Church, Radcliffe Camera, Hereford College, Magdalen College, and New College.

3. / 4.: Christchurch College: Tom Quad with Tom Tower (left photo) and Chapel and Great Hall (right photo).

5.: Christchurch College, Chapel.

6.: Christchurch College, Great Hall.

 

(We had, incidentally, also been planning for a stop in Cambridge on the return trip from Stratford, but that had to be cancelled ... which is a story for another day.  Also, this will now obviously necessitate yet another joint trip to England at some point or other!)

 

 

London

London, where we actually started our trip, was the first scheduled "shopping spree" stop: Since we've both visited London repeatedly before, no mad bouts of "mandatory" sightseeing were included; rather, merely being there tends to make both of us pretty happy campers in and of itself.  Since we've also more or less worked out a route covering the stores that we tend to hit on a routine basis whenever we're visiting, it took us all but five hours to complete our program, from Neal's Yard Remedies (at the original Neal's Yard location in Seven Dials) all the way to Fortnum & Mason's, with various other stops thrown in on the way, chiefly among those, Whittard of Chelsea and, this time around, Crabtree & Evelyn (which we actually do have in Germany, too, but the London branches had those irresistible sales ... (sigh)).  Since I knew I was going to spend a lot of money buying books in Stratford, I decided -- with a somewhat heavy heart -- to forego my usual Charing Cross Road stops on this occasion; though towards the end of the aforementioned five hours (1) my left knee started to give me serious trouble, and (2) we were already laden with our other purchases to such an extent that even I had to admit there would have been no way we'd be able to carry back books to our hotel on top, so I was grudgingly reconciled ... though only for the moment, and with the effect of instantly resolving to return to England sooner rather than later; a resolution that has since blossomed in fully-blown plans for a longer (and solo) follow-up trip, from the England / Wales border all the way to the Norfolk coast -- and in addition to plenty of sightseeing, I've also promised myself plenty of book store stops along the way.

 

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review 2017-04-10 19:01
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling - Ross King

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling is another very good work of art history from Ross King.  It covers in most detail the years 1505, when Michelangelo was called to Rome from Florence by Pope Julius II to make his tomb, to 1512, when he finished the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  It also takes a good look at Julius II, at Raphael (who was working next door), and to a lesser extent the other personalities dominating the Italian scene in the first decade or so of the 16th century.

 

Michelangelo was as grumpy as he was talented.  He was overjoyed to get the job of making Pope Julius II's tomb (seen as an affirmation that he was indeed the world's best sculptor), and then very angry that Julius changed his mind, and wanted him to fresco a ceiling instead.  (He had not worked in that medium in half his lifetime, since he was a teenager in the shop of Domenico Ghirlandaio.)  I can only envision him muttering, "Damn it, Pope Julius, I'm a sculptor, not a painter!"

 

He continued grumpy as he went to work on the ceiling.  His assistants were annoying.  His neck hurt.  Someone was stealing the marble he had bought for the pope's tomb, which had been left just lying around.  His family back in Florence were all lazy, or unambitious, or too ambitious, and expected him to pay for everything.  He wasn't being paid enough.  The pope was a megalomaniac who knew nothing about art.

 

That last one was pretty much true.  Julius II was a piece of work.  He was intent on re-conquering lands that had formerly been part of the Papal States - and he was then shocked and surprised that when he went to war with his neighbors, they called in someone larger to protect them.  (That would be France.)  He issued coins which compared him to Julius Caesar on one side, and to Jesus Christ on the other.

 

He also did not have great taste in art.  His original plans for the ceiling featured strongly the emblems of his own family - oak leaves - (which would have been much simpler to execute) and Michelangelo rejected them out of hand.  Then, when it was done, he insisted it wasn't really done, because it hadn't been covered in gold leaf.  Julius disliked the existing frescoes in the papal bedroom (the art had been installed by one of his recent, loathed, predecessors, Pope Alexander VI, a Borgia) so much he moved down a floor.  He hired Raphael to decorate the library of his new suite.

 

Raphael was not nearly as grumpy as his rival at work over in the chapel, and was dubious about Michelangelo's skills as a painter - until he saw the half-finished ceiling.  (Michelangelo hated visitors interrupting his work.)  He then paid him a painter's compliment, inserting Michelangelo into the already mostly done "School of Athens."  He immortalized one notoriously grumpy genius as another notoriously grumpy genius - Heraclitus.  (Michelangelo would also paint a self-portrait of himself on the ceiling; as a grumpy Jeremiah.)

 

When the ceiling was done in 1512, Michelangelo might have thought he was done with the Sistine Chapel.  That was far from the case.  He'd be called back to work on its altar wall, painting the Last Judgment, in the 1530s and 1540s.  And while he was still finishing up that work, he got the job as architect of St. Peter's basilica.  ("Damn it, Pope Paul, I'm a sculptor, not an architect!") 

 

Recommended to those interested in Michelangelo, in the Renaissance, or just in very readable art history.

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review 2017-03-21 10:58
Ein Buch ist mehr als die bloße Summe seiner Bestandteile
City of Ruin - Mark Charan Newton

Formell ist Villiren Teil des Imperiums Jamur. In der Realität feiert die Stadt ihre Unabhängigkeit und funktioniert nach eigenen Regeln und Gesetzen. Jeder Hunger, jede Perversion kann befriedigt werden. Diesen Sündenpfuhl muss Brynd Lathraea, Kommandant der Nachtgarde, gegen eine brutale Invasion verteidigen. Nach der Entdeckung der fremdartigen, feindlichen Okun obliegt es Brynd, Villiren auf ihren Angriff vorzubereiten. Verzweifelt versucht er, Autoritäten und Bevölkerung von der Gefahr eines nahenden Krieges zu überzeugen. Ihm begegnen Hass, Unglaube und Ignoranz. Als ein Mitglied der Nachtgarde spurlos verschwindet, wendet sich Brynd an Inquisitor Jeryd, der seit kurzem in Villiren lebt. Jeryd übernimmt die Ermittlungen und findet bald heraus, dass es in der Stadt zahllose ungeklärte Vermisstenfälle gibt. Wird Villiren von einem Serienmörder heimgesucht?
Währenddessen befinden sich Radur und die Schwestern Eir und Rika auf der Flucht durch die Wildnis. In einem Augenblick größter Not erfahren sie von unerwarteter Seite Hilfe und erhalten wichtige Informationen über die drohende Invasion, die Vergangenheit und Gegenwart des Imperiums in einem neuen Licht erscheinen lassen. Erreichen sie Villiren rechtzeitig, könnten diese Informationen den Ausgang der bevorstehenden Schlacht beeinflussen. Wird Villiren standhalten?

 

„City of Ruin“, der zweite Band der „Legends of the Red Sun“ von Mark Charan Newton, verlagert die Handlung in die Hafenstadt Villiren. Mir gefiel dieser Schauplatzwechsel sehr gut, weil Villiren ein Ort morbider Faszination ist. Es ist eine Stadt, die sich außerhalb der allgemeinen Gesetze bewegt. Geld und Macht sprechen Recht; Gerechtigkeit erhält nur, wer über das nötige Kleingeld verfügt. Der Stadthalter fördert die freie Marktwirtschaft, die die alltäglichen Hürden des Kapitalismus verursacht. Es ist eine Stadt der Sünde und des Lasters, in der jedes Bedürfnis befriedigt werden kann. Gangs steigen mit der Politik ins Bett und üben besorgniserregenden Einfluss aus. Jeden Tag kriecht der kriminelle Untergrund weiter an die Oberfläche und vereinnahmt sie.
Ausgerechnet diese Stadt soll Kommandant Brynd Lathraea verteidigen, in der seine Soldat_innen alles andere als willkommen sind und die dem exotischen Feind kaum etwas entgegenzusetzen hat. Brynds Verzweiflung war deutlich spürbar, ebenso wie die fatale Aussichtslosigkeit des Kampfes gegen die Okun. Ich empfand tiefe Hoffnungslosigkeit und sorgte mich um die Figuren, zu denen ich nun endlich eine stabile Bindung aufbauen konnte. Fluch und Segen zugleich, denn Mark Charan Newton neigt dazu, seine Charaktere äußerst unzeremoniell sterben zu lassen. In einem Moment sind sie noch quicklebendig, im nächsten liegen sie schon mausetot am Boden und man fragt sich, wie das geschehen konnte. Dadurch kippt Newton in unregelmäßigen Abständen die Erwartungshaltung seiner Leser_innen – offenbar legt er Wert darauf, als unberechenbarer Autor wahrgenommen zu werden. Er überrascht und schockiert, ohne allzu geizig mit Informationen zu sein. Der Handlungsstrang von Radur, Eir und Rika erklärt die Hintergründe des Krieges gegen die Okun, die Motivation ihres plötzlichen, aggressiven Angriffs, und gewährt tiefe Einblicke in die umfangreiche, komplizierte Geschichte des Imperiums. Newton brachte mich in eine der Nachtgarde überlegene Position und ließ mich meine erzwungene Untätigkeit verfluchen. Wie gern hätte ich in die Handlung eingegriffen und Kommandant Brynd mitgeteilt, was ich herausgefunden hatte.
Je mehr ich über die Vergangenheit des Imperiums erfuhr, desto weniger begriff ich jedoch dessen aktuelles Entwicklungsniveau. Obwohl das Imperium Zehntausende von Jahren alt ist, steckt es in einer Art Renaissance fest. Es müsste wesentlich fortschrittlicher sein. Hinweise deuten an, dass sehr viel Wissen verloren ging, aber ich verstehe (noch) nicht, wieso. Was ist passiert? Warum sind Kultisten die einzigen, die sich mit der Technik vergangener Jahrhunderte beschäftigen, mit Relikten, die der Gesellschaft und Kultur Jamurs so weit voraus sind, dass sie wie Magie erscheinen?
Ich zweifle noch daran, ob es in Newtons Universum überhaupt Magie im traditionellen Sinne gibt, habe aber mittlerweile den Eindruck, dass die bevorstehende Eiszeit keines natürlichen Ursprungs ist. Ich glaube, dass das Auftauchen der Okun und die sinkenden Temperaturen zusammenhängen. Vielleicht müssen die Problematiken nicht separat behandelt werden – vielleicht hängt das Schicksal Jamurs davon ab, dass beide Bedrohungen gemeinsam beseitigt werden.

 

„City of Ruin“ ist ein komponentenreicher, gewissenhaft konstruierter High Fantasy – Roman, der besonders mit originellem, vielfältigen Worldbuilding punktet. Dennoch kann ich nicht mehr als drei Sterne vergeben. Die unsägliche Wahrheit ist folgende: das Lesen war eine Qual. Es war dermaßen anstrengend, dass es mich fast zermürbt hätte, obwohl ich durch „Nights of Villjamur“ darauf vorbereitet war, dass die Lektüre kein Zuckerschlecken sein würde. Direkt danach war ich völlig entnervt und fest entschlossen, die „Legends of the Red Sun“ auf ewig von meinem Radar zu verbannen. Mittlerweile bin ich entspannter und empfinde durchaus eine gewisse Neugier hinsichtlich des nächsten Bandes, das grundsätzliche Problem bleibt allerdings bestehen: ich kann nicht definieren, warum mir Mark Charan Newtons Romane solche Schwierigkeiten bereiten. Es gibt kein Detail, das ich als Übeltäter entlarven könnte. Ich kann nur vermuten, dass Newton und ich nicht auf der gleichen Wellenlänge schwingen, weshalb die Kombination der Elemente seiner Geschichte für mich mittelmäßig funktioniert. Jedes Buch ist eben mehr als die bloße Summe seiner Bestandteile. Ich halte es mir offen, ob ich es mit dem Nachfolger „The Book of Transformations“ versuchen werde. Vielleicht siegt die Neugier eines Tages, vielleicht nicht.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/mark-charan-newton-city-of-ruin
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