Art. History. Culture.
Good reads make for good conversations and keep us cultured!
This page lists published works, fiction or non-fiction, with relevance to Greco’s Ghosts’ themes. Please comment if you can recommend some great reading material, fiction or non, related to art, history, or culture.
I think I found a new favorite series! Well, maybe I’m jumping the gun here – character series books can be great but they can also be overdone (see below review of the latest Robert Langdon adventure). Daniel Silva writes suspenseful dramas featuring a character called Gabriel Allon, a former Israeli spy and assassin turned art historian and conservator. What a great combo! We get art, history and culture along with mystery, suspense and secrecy. There are currently thirteen books in the Gabriel Allon series. I just finished reading my first Gabriel Allon book, The Rembrandt Affair. This is number ten in the series but it seems you do not have to read them in order. The Rembrandt Affair was some good entertainment. It was a nice change from some of the Robert Langdon gimmick which at times borderlines on cheesy. Allon is suave but mysterious and doesn’t say annoying shit. He’s also a badass, something Robert Langdon is not. In The Rembrandt Affair, we have a great story of an art theft with clues leading to tragic Holocaust crimes and eventually to a spy operation on a corrupt billionaire. It’s Robert Langdon meets Mitch Rapp (if you’ve never read a Vince Flynn book, they are worth it). I will definitely be reading another one of these.
Dan Brown is one of today’s most successful authors, but if you’ve figured out his gimmick you might be slightly over him. A day in the life of Robert Langdon, Brown’s tweedy protagonist, became a bit of a head-scratcher in Inferno. Sure, this book was ten times better than the last edition of Robert Langdon adventure, The Lost Symbol, which I thought was horrible. But it still can’t beat Angels & Demons or The DaVinci Code (my personal favorite). Here’s my feeling on Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books – they are entertaining and you get through them quickly. They are page turners, can be quite suspenseful and have great potential to be made into movies. However, the likelihood of some of the situations is decreasing quite a bit, especially now that we are on Robert Langdon book number four. Why, when the entire world is in danger, is this Harvard art historian the only person people turn to? It works in the book, but in real life, well come on. Yet I enjoyed the many references to art, Dante’s epic Divine Comedy and rediscovering the many cultural landmarks of Florence where this story takes place. It sets a great scene and Brown describes them beautifully. I have no complaint about his writing style, only that I am ready for him to retire the Robert Langdon character. Was Inferno worth the read? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Yes. I would call it good, but I would not call it great.
This read is fabulous and involves art and art history in hilarious and spectacular ways. Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore, my favorite author second to J.K Rowling, brings to life a group of Impressionists who we all know very well, or at least we think we know. This fiction takes place in Paris when anybody who was anybody lived there, and a strange, seductive but dangerous force coming from the color blue torments of some of the world’s most renowned painters. There’s Van Gogh, Monet, Pissarro, Morisot, Manet, Gaugin, and a sleazy but most endearing Tououse-Lautrec. Moore uses frat boy humor with an array of characters and supernatural themes and combines them with actual historical events. The tale is bizarre but hilarious and continually keeps you guessing. If you don’t know much about Impressionism, you won’t like it. The beginning is slightly fragmented, sometimes even convoluted, but keep reading and your questions will be answered. A great ending too, which is always appreciated.
I’ve been neglecting my “reads.” Horribly! But here’s a good one for ya. I recently finished The Monster of Florence, one of those books that is a true story but reads like a novel; a mystery/suspense/thriller, in fact. In my reading for pleasure, I usually prefer fiction for it’s entertainment value, yet this true story is full of so much suspense, so many twists and turns, that I couldn’t put it down. Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi are journalists living in Florence, Italy attempting to uncover the truth about a serial killer who became known as the Monster of Florence. A series of gruesome murders of pairs of lovers began in 1968 and continued until 1985. In their account, Spezi and Preston uncover the many botched procedures of police work, the scandals in the press, the Italian penchant for conspiracy theory, and their own investigation into the murders as well as a revelation of their prime suspect. The production of a movie, starring George Clooney, is currently in the works.
On the cover of The Monster of Florence is an image of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women (1574-82), encompassing a theme of the story which is of interest to this site. The story is a contemporary tale of horror taking place in a city where the glorious past and tumultuous present continuously bump heads. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, one of the most important artistic and cultural hubs of the entire world. In a place where the beauty of the humanities was so exquisite, how could such evil coexist?
Susie Hodge, 50 Art Ideas You Really Need to Know, London: Quercus Publishing Plc, 2011.
This is not a scholarly source from a university press, but a fun little book of art trivia for your bathroom or coffee table. It contains an overview and highlights of (mostly) western Art History, from prehistoric art to the new millennium. Art movements are summarized with their major contributors named along with an exemplary image from each one, timelines, and analysis. Art History in a nutshell. You can find it here on Amazon.