If you did happen to read this sacred text, that has been around for centuries longer than some acknowledge as even a possible thing, then may I suggeIf you did happen to read this sacred text, that has been around for centuries longer than some acknowledge as even a possible thing, then may I suggest the Rig Vedas. The Rig Veda Awesome reading. Such perfection.
I love this book, having first read it back in '92-'93. It's still sitting right there on my shelf, despite having been pulled off several times for aI love this book, having first read it back in '92-'93. It's still sitting right there on my shelf, despite having been pulled off several times for a re-read. Complex? Uhmmm, not really. Big words? No bigger, certainly, than McCarthy. Ha! Not even close. No, just top of the line, grade A, "historical romance." If that. I'd call it much more myself. Susan Sontag is a writers writer. 5 Star caliber all the way....more
Wow, I'm blown away by all the neg reviews. Even knowing all our mixed-up, varied opinions are what makes the world keep going on and on, round and arWow, I'm blown away by all the neg reviews. Even knowing all our mixed-up, varied opinions are what makes the world keep going on and on, round and around and around. As for me and my humble opinion of "The Lacuna? I was blown away. Masterful, well-researched, well-written work of art. Loved it and plan on re-reading it. ...more
No, The Swan Thieves is not The Historian. Nor should it be. Elizabeth Kostova does, however, retain her sense of the magical, her ability to carry usNo, The Swan Thieves is not The Historian. Nor should it be. Elizabeth Kostova does, however, retain her sense of the magical, her ability to carry us back and forth through time seamlessly wrought with language lush and captivating. I was enthralled....more
Sarah Dunant's gem of a book, "The Birth Of Venus," is a brilliant period piece written painted on the page with all the fire of oils then finished ofSarah Dunant's gem of a book, "The Birth Of Venus," is a brilliant period piece written painted on the page with all the fire of oils then finished off with a glow emanating from the veneer that comes after being highly glazed. She masters the big four: Story— Imagery—Elegance—Intelligence, in such a "readable" way, I flew through it (or it, through me) and I finished it, cover to cover, in under two hours, whilst in a surreal haze. Okay. To be honest, the haze was probably from the real fever I had "caught" and not solely the haze from being swept into another world. Still...
What another gorgeous feast for the senses from Dunant. I have to put this down. Now. In words. My thoughts and my feelings, while still fresh with all this meaning.This feeling. Don't waste the echoes and those far-away feelings of distance you get while in a state of fiery brain-heated yet torpid, languid, dare I say, blissful confusion, while viewing bad TV, all the while, whining "Wahhh," to your mother or your significant other or heaven forbid, simply sit staring into your Dasani bottled up water. Oh no, that just won't do. Not when you can go (be taken) all other-worldly. Mind swoon yourself (by the grace of another) back to the 1400's.
Dunant's strokes are vibrant, so ardent and inventive, known by trademark authentic; her marriage of story to prose so light it's like silver sheen, comparable to air, or a gossamer trail, she hits every possible note, with every masterful stroke. With consummate skill, she sets forth this gilded tale with the upmost finesse and flair. She blends her palette well, blurring word and color seamlessly and simultaneously. Now, imagine all that rolled into one "now" during your reading. She brings the words, which writhe alive, bright, right off the page, as if laid down with one of those "Silver Brush" sables, highly-praised, top-of-the-line, red sables (that are hand selected from marten tails) this book is the equivalent of an excellent rendering known as Chiaroscuro (there's no adumbration here) as if this WERE a painting, rather than black marks on white paper. Sometimes, we readers DO get lucky, finding the edges really do blur, and no not a fever thing at all. That's unfair to Ms. Dunant.
Simply put, this book comes alive, awash with colors, verdigris, lapis lazlulis, vermillion, the darkest of indigo, pomegranate, even the blood is aflame, on fire, all a rage with pure color. (Ok, I was Art Major/Art History Minor. Crazy what's still there for recall.)
In the mid—1400's Lorenzo de' Medici of Florence bought himself the services of one Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, who we recognize today as Sandro Botticelli, you know, "Adoration of The Magi." Botticelli had the gift, he's the guy who envisioned, painted and glorified Venus de' Milo the über-goddess, rising/standing so demurely, even while being delectable and desirous, so pure from her place of exultation. Immortality on a half shell. As any Art Historian worth a grain of salt already knows, Lorenzo was not the first patron d' arts living during this gilded age of Platonic Ideals, a time when real people lived real lives while seeking real answers to life's eternal questions regarding God, Life, Death, Beauty, Truth, Reason and Enlightenment. They were seeking Painted Reverence and Beauty, so they went out, bought then brought home, their own personal Divined Artisans. This was how it was in their time on earth named now as The Renaissance, it's just the way life was back in Florence circa mid-1400.
Before Lorenzo ever became a thought, or a thought being conceived into being, his grandfather Cosimo de' Medici the Elder, who (most likely) was the first Medici art patron, had purchased the services of an artist for himself Cosimo, went top drawer, top of the line and secured a commission with the one and only, master craftsman of his time, Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, better known to all as Donatello. He was a sculptor, large bronzes, bas reliefs, pagan themes...Madonna and Child...his famous homo-erotic nude in the round bronze of David. Donatello was not without his detractors, although he lived a long life, dying in Florence at eighty. He is buried in the Basilca of San Lorenza alongside his patron, Cosimo de' Medici the Elder. We'll return to Botticelli later (who certainly was just as deserving as Donatello, as far as accolades go) as he is relevant to the story, "The Birth of Venus."
As all the fashionable Florencian's knew, it was all about "Keeping Up With The de' Medici's." If, that is, you were of noble birth, had plenty of money, a chapel alluring enough to provide years of study, time for all that hard work behind the scenes: the layout, gridwork, preliminary pre-sketches, setting up the scaffolding; all this even before the first brushstrokes could be laid down on the final fresco. To the painter in need of a patron and the patrons purchasing of said painter, trust came down to the painters freedom to paint said chapel along with the altar peices, and whatever God saw fit to flow through those fingers, which could only be explained as being touched by God-Giving Divinity. Still, most were considered, at best, tradesmen, or in the case of the Checchi family, more simply put as merely "The Painter."
Paolo Checchi, is a merchant, world renowned (in 1440!) for his original fabrics and textiles. They were top-quality, colorful, rich and flamboyant, therefore highly coveted, by not only Italians, but anywhere a ship could be put to port. He is rising ever higher in his social status, when we first open the pages of "The Birth of Venus." Paolo has just returned from the North Country, where all is gray and the cold has such a chill that it seeps into ones very soul, washing all but the barest hint of color away. (Along with digits, if one is not careful.) According to "The Painter."
(Dunant can also be witty, yes, even when writing tales of horror as vibrant as she does fabric, you can really feel it. Retaining her fluid, elegant voice, her words, impressions, the images of evil literally float off the page. Although, this is history, we are at least, eased into the torture. The poverty of the lower classes, sicknesses and deaths were practically daily events, way back then in history.)
Paolo is coming home to his family, bringing with him, The Painter. All the 'good' families have one. His wife, we discover, is notably more noble, on the hierarchy scale of how Highborn one can be, she having attained that height higher than her Good Husband Paolo could ever hope to aspire to. Paolo, is, after all, a merchant, a purveyor of goods, top quality and coveted to be sure, though useless for that highest scale of born to be noble. She's in an all together higher league that he will never be nor ever reach. Still, it has all the appearance of a happy and prosperous union. They have been blessed with two sons, Lucas and Tomas. Not much of a blessing. You'll see. They also have two daughters, Plautillo and Alessandra. Night and day, these two. Now, as this family is on the rise, they too, have their own personal artisan, "The Painter." Changes are coming, not only to Florence and The Holy Church but to the Checchi family as well.
Alessandra is the young heroine of our story. Her road is not easy. When is it ever, in most times, when blessed/cursed with an innate curiosity of mind combined with a superior intellect? Fuse this with an extraordinary artistic talent, which in those times, even for the Highborn, could be called out as heresy. No, poor Alessandra was staring at fates fangs the moment her body conspired against her, even as this kind of conspiracy is altogether inevitable. At fourteen she became woman. Childhood and the safety net it provides in the dangerous times that are sensed as inevitably drawing ever near, makes the venom dig in a little a deeper.
This all coincides with the advent of the fanatical Salvorono, a monk from nowhere, (in the context of the story) who took to preaching his sermons of hellfire and damnation to the very devout Florencian's, which left them reeling, confused and more than a little afraid. Were his sermons, which he claimed as being God inspired, and the issues he raised, even possible things? They, the people, the masses, so conflicted, began to fear his promises of their collective journey to the very pits of hell, as too close to real.
His power base grew, not only in numbers, but in the degree of his followers beliefs. They would grow to be as fanatical as the fanatic. His sermons grew harsher, he called the Florencian's out. For even the most flimsy infringements, he kept coming back with, as yet again, yes, this too, is nothing less than a most vile of sin. He banned women from all Church Services and put them on strict city-wide curfew. Then his rhetoric turned worse, by degrees, exponitially worsening as he grew more powerful. His pitch grew violent when geared towards hells consignment for those known (or slandered, just, unjust, these were, after all, trivial semantics) as being the perverted sodomites, whores, soothsayers and unbelievers, or gasp! Of COURSE it worsens, as things tend to do, when fanatics have leave to breed fear unchecked! The ARTISANS! Those God gifted/divined/inspired ones, or at least as they were venerated before the monks arrival, not all that long ago. Mind you, in the age of The Renaissance, most painters painting Masterpieces believed it to be a CALLING, therefore they did find inspiration from the Divine when they put a brush to hand. Minds break, along with hearts, upon finding they are now the evil creatures, satans spawn. Patrons, people, priests and preachers alike all whispering, "Who dared? How DID they? How COULD we? Who were THEY to think of re-creating images/figures/eyes—windows upon the souls to those of The Holy Trinity, The Mother Mary, The Christ Child? Jesus himself?" What blasmephy! The arrogance! Here we go now...The days of REASON, of ENLIGHTENMENT—were OVER.
I'm not big on spoilers. Never give them. Still, I was planning on going a little deeper into the storyline. Alessandra's kinda-sorta being duped into a catastrophic marriage. Those dangerous times called for drastic measures. And it was not a thing possible, under that sun, or any other, when tingly sparks ignite between the useless talent of the Art—Worshipping, Brand—New Woman, Alessandra and The Painter, this flame must be doused, before igniting into a raging fire. The Painter is still living in quarters no better than a stable, still taking his meals all alone, all the while, creating works recognized by some as genius, which they are. Of course, the frustrated young budding artist girl is giddy, to have a true master, such as he, this closer than close, to her. Alas, she's now on permanent being slaved-watched status. Sure, she's snuck down the steps in the dark when the house is abed, just so she can sneak a peek at his secret technique, since he only paints in the dead of night. How else is a girl going to learn? Nope, the girl must be right and proper married. With this, I'll leave you to discover the fate of young Alessandra.
Botticelli fell under the sway of the fanatical, violent, Salvorono. In doing so, he denounced and burned many of his own masterpieces himself. Rumors still abound to this day, regarding his sexual orientation. There is evidence he was turned in as a sodomite, but was released, untortured. So here, I can bring up an important point. On two major—one minor parts of the storyline, it is acknowledged by Dunant, obviously, she has taken full advantage of creative-literary license. As The Painter didn't get off quite that lucky. Yep, a certain someone had it in for him too. Although he was able to continue painting many masterpieces in the years to come. Hmmm, just who was this Painter?
If you know anything about Italian History, or the Renaissance, or possibly some history regarding the affairs of the Catholic Church or The Vatican, you may know Salvorono WAS in fact FINALLY publically called out by Pope Alexander VI and after his final fiasco, a disastrous public humiliation of what would of been the first trial by fire in Florence in over four hundred years, Salvorono, along with two other monks were duly arrested and went to meet their destiny. I must admit here, there are, still, two schools of thought on the piety of Salvorono. I know what I think about those who torture a thing born, what that draws breath, for ANY reason under Gods sun, or even in the infinite of the universe. I have no use for them. Ohhh, my fevers rising. "Tylenol please!"
FIVE STARS AND A FAVORITE
I know it needs some cleaning up. I'll come back and do later. Cross my fingers! Uncrossing—It took awhile! Finally, is all I say. : )...more