THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY by Irving Stone
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THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is Stone's finest novel and the just announced selection as April B-O-M, will give it added impetus. Even without that, the subject matter- Michelangelo and the burgeoning period which gave him life- and Stone's proven ability to convey the excitement and passion of genius (as in Lust for Life) would guarantee an immense and eager audience. It's an enormous book, in scope, in historical background, in depth perception and characterization. Charles H. Morgan's The Life of Michelangelo (Viking- Reynal) never quite came to grips with the man. He remained much less fully realized than his tremendous body of work (see report-1960-p. 319). Sidney Alexander's novel, Michelangelo, the Florentine (Random House- see report 1957, p. 656), while absorbing and fascinating reading, never gave one a sense of the whole man. De Tolnay's definitive six volume Michelangelo (Princeton University Press) is beyond the pocketbook of the general reader, but Stone's book may well provide the opening wedge to further study. It is an extraordinary achievement, both in bringing the greatest period of the Renaissance in Italy into vivid personal being, and in clarifying the complex political situation, the interplay of personalities in Florence and in Rome as Savonarola injected a spirit of fear and fanaticism, as the Medicis and the Borgias battled for papal control in Rome, as extravagance was followed by penury and back again. Against this surging, many threaded setting, Michelangelo emerges, with his strange and difficult personality, his courage and independence, his lifelong slavery to his demanding family, and his complete identification with his own many-sided genius. Sculpture was his goal, his god, his driving force, but, faced with necessity, he proved himself equally gifted in the incredible achievement of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the architectural triumph of St. Peter's, and even as an engineer. Irving Stone writes out of intimate personal acquaintance with the marble quarries, the studios of sculptors -- and one finds almost exhausting identification with Michelangelo's tortuous performance. It's an immensely long novel -- but fully rewarding on every count.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1961
Publisher: Doubleday