CARAVAGGIO

A PASSIONATE LIFE

Seward, a renowned British historian (The Wars of the Roses, 1995, etc.), sets out to reassemble the shadowy life of the 17th-century Italian chiaroscuro master Michelangelo de Caravaggio. Born in 1571, Caravaggio lost his father to the plague when he was only six. From then on, death followed close on the painter’s heels, leaving its reflection in Caravaggio’s portrayal of corpses and severed heads in his art. A man of violent temper, prone to fits of jealousy and uncontrollable rage, Caravaggio committed a crime in nearly every city he lived in and had to flee the law on numerous occasions. Arriving in Rome in 1592, he lived for many years on the fringe of respectability, making a meager living in the workshops of other artists. Eventually, one of his paintings caught the eye of Cardinal del Monte, who invited Caravaggio to become a resident painter at his palazzo. The cardinal’s patronage ensured a quick rise to fame and numerous commissions—especially from clergy, who were perpetually smitten by Caravaggio’s Madonnas (even if many of them were modeled by prostitutes). Caravaggio’s success culminated in a commission to paint the pope’s portrait, but soon after, he was implicated in a duel that ended in the death of his tennis partner. Caravaggio became an outlaw in Rome, but he continued to exploit his talent and even sought admission to the Knights of Malta. The master of the order relaxed the rules to admit the famous artist but was just as soon obliged to expel him for attacking another knight. Caravaggio would remain on the run until death finally caught up with him. Penniless and exhausted from wounds and illness, Caravaggio died on the shore at Porto Ercole in 1610. Given the glaring lack of historical data, Seward does a fine job of piecing together circumstantial evidence of the painter’s turbulent life, while skillful juxtaposition of Caravaggio’s personal narrative and art illuminates the origins of his dramatic style.(16 color illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-688-15032-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

more