At least I'm trying to better myself • 16 November 2006 • The SnowBlog
At least I'm trying to better myself
I know we tend to be a bit Scott Pack this, Scott Pack that, and did you hear what Scott said about this other thing here? But a big bit of that is because he tends to be braver than us in speaking his mind, so his views provide a very handy point of reference. We can sort of hide behind him while he's telling off the establishment, and then we can pop our heads up for a moment and yell, 'Yeah! Take that, slightly reactionary book industry!'
Interestingly, I have just found myself using Scott's blog to gauge another quality besides lairiness. I'm now using the lesser known Pack Scale of Book-Plugging Magnanimity. Scott's recommended that his followers read various titles, besides the ones produced in his own book-mills, and now I want to do the same. But I only give myself about a six out of ten on the Pack Scale because the book happens to be written by a friend of mine. That's not why I'm recommending it - the book deserves recommendation purely on its merits - but I probably wouldn't have stumbled across it if I hadn't been looking out for the name.
So, the book is the Secret Language of the Renaissance, by Richard Stemp, from Duncan Baird Publishers. And should you be interested, the book's title continues: Decoding the Greatest Age of Italian Art. It's what I'm sure its publishers' marketing team will hate me for calling a 'coffee-table book', but it's rather a fabulous one. It has many pretty pictures: every Renaissance painting and sculpture I've ever heard of (which turns out not to be that many) and several additional galleries full besides. It also has a great number of pretty words, all of which, so far, I'm delighted to say that I understand. It's so wonderfully readable that I could almost forget that I'm learning about art, because learning about art is not something I'm generally very good at. I spend a lot of my time studying, but I have some notable blindspots and this book fits neatly into one of them. When it comes to discovering art, as another friend of mine says, it's not something I do; it's not even something I want to do; but it's something I want to want to do. But now perhaps there's some hope. The Secret Language seems to have got me over the first hurdle very efficiently. My worry now is that I'll gather in all this new knowledge, be fascinated by it, and then forget it all. But even if I only retain a fraction of it, I'll be pleased. And one really can't go very far wrong in the glossy art book stakes for £9.99 (Amazon's current price). I think it's safe to say that if you gave it as a gift, the recipient would never guess how little you'd spent on them.