Monday, July 28, 2014

What is Brent Reading?

By this time you all know Brent.  Brent is our resident bibliophile.  He is such a trusted source of all kinds of information.  Why?  Because he provides knowledge and recommendations based not on sales and popularity, but experience.  We thought you might find his choice in literature as interesting as we do.  So, if you are in need of a good page-turner, just ask yourself, "What is Brent reading?".
 #1- Mira calligraphiae monumenta: A Sixteenth-century Calligraphic Manuscript inscribed by Georg Bocskay and Illuminated by Joris Hoefnagel

Description- In 1561–62 the master calligrapher Georg Bocskay, imperial secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, created the Mira calligraphiae monumenta as a demonstration of his own pre-eminence among scribes. Years later, Ferdinand’s grandson, the Emperor Rudolf II, commissioned Europe’s last great manuscript illuminator, Joris Hoefnagel, to embellish his work. The resulting book is at once a treasury of extraordinary beauty, a landmark in the cultural debate between word and image, and one of the most intriguing memorials of Rudolf's endlessly fascinating rule in Prague.  Of consuming interest to scholars, collectors, bibliophiles and art historians, this remarkable opus will also be a key source of inspiration for graphic designers, typographers, practicing calligraphers and devotees of the art of the book.

Brent- In our sale book area we have a pile of books with the title Nature Illuminated: Flora & Fauna from the Court of Emperor Rudolf II. It's a small 5" x 7" book of about 80 pages or so that was put out by the Getty Museum a number of years ago. I believe there were three books in this series, all taking parts from the Mira calligraphiae monumenta.  The wonderful sampling found in the three smaller books pushed me to acquire the entire collection. I warn all- it's now very expensive as it's out of print with very limited availability.
Available here.

#2- Mihail Chemiakin (Vol. 1: Russian Period, Paris Period; Vol. 2: Transformations, New York Period

Description- A two-volume monograph on the art and life of Mihail Chemiakin through 1985.  Volume 1 describes the artist's early years in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), his artistic theories and early drawings, still lifes, illustrations and portraits along with photographs of the "happenings" in Chemiakin's studio and on the streets of Leningrad; his forced departure for France and his life and work there.  Volume 2 is dedicated to Chemiakin's series of "Transformations" - reinterpretations of existing art works or artifacts; and to his first five years in the United States, where he continued to experiment with new techniques and themes, creating series of works in pastel on black paper and large textured paintings. Throughout the two volumes Chemiakin comments extensively on his own work and on the work of his contemporaries, both Russian and European.

Brent- The second book (actually, a large 2-volume slipcased monster) on my desk at home is Mihail Chemiakin (Vol. 1: Russian Period, Paris Period; Vol. 2: Transformations, New York Period.  This fellow's work doesn't really fall into neat category- perhaps abstract/figurative/fantasy...? If Kandinsky pushed his late Paris period pieces into figuration, they could have looked like the art of Chemiakin. Alas- these two books are also out of print and command a king's ransom of a price.
Available here.

#3- The City & the City, by China Mieville

Description- Better known for New Weird fantasies (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, The Iron Council, etc.), bestseller Miéville offers an outstanding take on police procedurals with this barely speculative novel. Twin southern European cities Beszel and Ul Qoma coexist in the same physical location, separated by their citizens' determination to see only their own city. Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad roams through the intertwined but separate cultures as he investigates the murder of Mahalia Geary, who believed that a third city, Orciny, hides in the blind spots between Beszel and Ul Qoma. As Mahalia's friends disappear and revolution brews, Tyador is forced to consider the idea that someone in unseen Orciny is manipulating the other cities. Through this exaggerated metaphor of segregation, Miéville skillfully examines the illusions people embrace to preserve their preferred social realities.

Brent- The final book I'm reading (or re-reading, in this case) is from our fiction table accompanying the Magritte exhibition. The City & the City, by China Mieville is absolutely fascinating.  There's such a powerful imagination at work in all if Mieville's books that the images conjured up remain in one's mind for quite some time. His combinations of the mundane and the absurdly unreal take on a very solid and disturbing feel as a reader goes through his books. I also highly recommend the earlier Perdido Street Station, which recalls both Dickens and H.G. Wells, but is far darker (warning- there's nightmare material in that one).
Available here.

Want more?  Don't worry, we'll check in again with Brent soon...

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