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A PENCIL IN GOD'S HAND

THE STORY OF THE ONLY AMERICAN ARCHITECT TO DESIGN A BUILDING IN THE VATICAN

An intricate, visually lavish dive into a religiously influenced creative process.

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In this debut memoir, a building designer asserts that divine inspiration helped turn an offbeat chapel into a jewel.

Pittsburgh-based architect Astorino was called to Rome in 1993 to consult on a proposed residence hall in Vatican City for visiting cardinals and bishops. The project stirred public controversy because the proposed structure would block views of St. Peter’s Basilica. As he devised a new design that lowered the building’s height, the process flowed so rapturously, he says, that he “felt like a pencil in someone’s hand.” However, Vatican bureaucrats resisted the plan. The devout author was bitterly disappointed, but then he experienced an epiphany in which the Holy Spirit prompted him to follow “the path of inner surrender and resignation.” Later, the Vatican commissioned him to design a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit. After praying for guidance, he and his colleagues received a burst of inspiration that “felt natural and comfortable…as if someone were holding our hands.” The result was an innovative, modernist design based on triangle motifs, featuring a series of sharply peaked roofs, a marble floor of richly colored triangular grids, and a glass partition looking out on an ancient Roman wall hung with sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross. The chapel is so inviting, Astorino says, that it’s become Pope Francis’ favorite place to celebrate Mass. (The book also includes an admiring tribute to Pope Francis’ intellect, avoidance of luxury, love of the poor, and willingness to pose for pictures with pilgrims.) Astorino and debut co-author Carney, a Franciscan nun, infuse this engaging architectural appreciation and procedural with Catholic ardor throughout: “The lighting system—its source recessed and carefully hidden—would augment the contemplative atmosphere of the chapel and reflect the mystery of the Holy Spirit.” They also illustrate the heartfelt remembrance with many sumptuous photographs of the finished chapel as well as of various blueprints, models, and other Vatican scenes, including Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and Swiss Guards in their particolored pantaloons. Overall, this book will surely captivate architecture mavens and fans of Vatican atmospherics.

An intricate, visually lavish dive into a religiously influenced creative process.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-9990-9

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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INTO THE WILD

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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