A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I normally don't gravitate towards abridged books (sorry folks on Audible, but this IS abridged), but Vasari's 'The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects' is a book that needs to be: 1) read by art history experts in its entirety (2000+ pages), 2) picked through periodically, like an encyclopedic “Garden of Delights”, 3) read abridged, in a version that focuses on the Renaissance's best (Vasari was interested in distinguishing the better from the good and the best from the better). My time here is limited. I only have so much time for the good. In my brief life here I want to hang with the Gods not with the minor prophets. I want Michelangelo not Niccolò Soggi. Sorry Niccolò.
The Penguin Classics/George Bull translation, was a great audio version. It had all the Teenage Ninja Mutant Renaissance artists, but still provided plenty of architects, sculptures and painters that I was either completely uninformed about or lacked much knowledge. Vasari has a natural narrative momentum, even if he does sometimes lose his narrative genius when he's consumed with listing and describing all of an artists works. It is a fine balancing act, to try and describe the artists' life, work, and importance and make the essay complete, without making the piece a laundry list of oil and marble.
One final note. This is one of those books that seems destined to become an amazing hypertext book or app. There were times while reading it I wished I was reading a digital copy that would provide links to pictures, blue prints, smoothly rotating statues, etc. What I wanted was a through the looking-glass, artist's version of 'The Elements' app by Theodore Gray. I want a multiverse of art, history, maps and blueprints. I want to fall into a hypertext of Renaissance Florence and Rome. Audiobooks or paper just fail to do justice to this beautiful subject.
Moving further from work extended my daily commute... thank God for Audible.
Truth be told, I felt a little duped when I first started "I Capture The Castle". It had been recommended to me by one of those "You Might Like" algorithms, and I made the purchase impulsively (and uncharacteristically) with absolutely zero research. Almost instantly I realised “Capture” was unlike any other novel I'd read before, and I was baffled by the recommendation. I'm not drawn to novels in this genre, but all I can say is that I absolutely loved every moment inside Cassandra’s journal. I even feel a small sense of loss that I won't be spending any more time with the inhabitants of Scoatney Village, who feel so incredibly alive to me now.
I've subsequently done a little research on the book, and I can see it featuring on lists like "Classics All Young Girls Should Read" etc... This makes me a little embarrassed, as I'm a middle-aged man. I suppose I can understand some dismissing this as a “charming little girls book"—it is a tad heavy on young romance, first loves, stolen kisses, exciting marriage proposals (Dear God, I'm cringing as I write). But what a pity if they did pigeon-hole it that way; it has way more to offer. It is witty, thoughtful, clever and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny at times. And the characters are so deeply drawn, I guess I didn’t mind all the accompanying histrionics.
I should say that I did live in the UK for many years, so I know my nostalgia for the English countryside enhanced my enjoyment. My favourite quote: “It came to me that Hyde Park has never belonged to London - that it has always been , in spirit, a stretch of countryside; and that it links the Londons of all periods together most magically - by remaining forever unchanged at the heart of a ever-changing town.”
Loyal fans of the book have admired this audio version, and I totally support all praise for Jenny Agutter. This is a flawless narration and I can’t imagine a better way to enjoy this book.
Oh and—by the way—I think I’ve now realized why the algorithm recommended the book to me in the first place. I had “Cold Comfort Farm” listed as a favourite, and it’s only now that I’m starting to see the synchronicities between these two novels.