Archive for October, 2019

The Family Medici

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

By Mary Hollingsworth

The Short Take:

Hollingsworth’s history of the notorious Medici family is comprehensive but surprisingly boring. Covering several centuries, it presents a lot of information. I wanted more focus on the dirt.

Why?

In my mind–and I suspect many others–the Medici name equates with scandal, corruption, and vice. There’s plenty of that but it’s far outweighed by accounts of the numerous petty wars, financial dealings, and political matters involving the family.

There’s a lot of be learned from reading this book, especially about the uniqueness of Florence as a fiercely proud Republic. However, if you want to focus on the excesses and sins of the Medici’s, a historical novel might be a better choice.

Or maybe I had mistaken ideas of the Medici’s? Hollingsworth’s stated aim is to discredit the idea that they were enlightened rulers of the Renaissance. She shows how their family history was revised and sometimes re-invented to disguise the ugly truth. One small example: Lorenzo the Magnificent wasn’t. That was a title with little meaning or stature in his time.

Read this book, and you’ll get the whole truth about the Medici’s; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the boring.

A Little Plot:

The poor Medici’s come to Florence, build a massive banking network, have ups and downs, create scandals and popes. For more about Mary Hollingsworth and her other scholarly books about the Renaissance, click here.

Time Song: Journeys in Search of a Submerged Land.

Monday, October 14th, 2019

By Julia Blackburn

The Short Take:

I expected something far different from this lyrical exploration of the lost land that once connected England with the rest of Europe. Blackburn chose to reveal her findings as a personal journey, connected to her recent bereavement.

Why?

I anticipated a factual (and conjectural) non-fiction work about Doggerland and the people who lived there. Beneath the North Sea for the last 8000 or so years, this former land bridge once was home to a variety of animals, plants, and a thriving population of early man.

Blackburn’s book covers that material but in a more abstract and personal way. This included scratchy art by a friend of hers and narrative poems she called Time Songs. Strangely, the poems provided more concrete facts than the prose.

In disappointment, I put this book aside. But after a week or so I went back with a mindset open to her journey and her musings about time. Then I enjoyed it much more.

Blackburn ventures out with various experts who explain different aspects of the Doggerville inhabitants. She also joins others to explore the coast lines of eastern England and western Netherlands and Denmark. This series of nature hikes made me want to visit this area (I would love to go fossil hunting) but it was a piecemeal way to present the material. Still, it had a certain charm, especially when tied in with her thoughts on the vastness of time and the shortness of life.

Both the title and book cover for the USA are different those in her native England. I think both suffered with the change, especially since she mentions the English cover in the text (the title was originally Time Song: Searching for Doggerland). Oh, well.

A Little Plot:

There really isn’t one. Blackburn walks with knowledgeable individuals, sometimes picking up fossils, sometimes talking about what used to be.

For more about Julia Blackburn (and to see the proper cover) click here.

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