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The Week in Books: The boring and the totally awesome

In my seemingly never-ending quest to get rid of all my physical books before we move (and buy an ebook of ones worth keeping, but getting rid of the physical book either way) I’ve been going through the stack of books that I’ve kept around which look interesting.
downloadOne of these was Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance by Lisa Jardine, which should win an award for being the heaviest book for it’s number of pages around.  Like the weight of the paper was insane.

Know what else was insane?  Trying to read this book for fun.

Seriously.  Not a fun book.  Not even close to being a fun book.

The whole thesis Jardine develops is that it was commerce that drove the art and culture of the Renaissance, not necessarily some kind of desire for culture to rise and society to become all creative and artistic.  It was wealthy patrons of artists, wealthy popes, basically wealthy individuals, who had disposable income who made the whole thing happen.

She develops this over 450 odd pages showing how explorers were actually commercial entrepreneurs.  Basically: trade and warfare drove the explorers, not some kind of desire to have some sort of sacred knowledge.  Not exactly sure what’s new there.  I feel like I read that in 6th grade.

Da Vinci was actually know for designing war machines and wrote several letters to potential patrons with drawings and descriptions of the sorts of killing contraptions he could create.  Yes yes, read that, too.

Paintings are analyzed to show that while yes, the Virgin Mary does look so poetic and beatific, she’s actually surrounded by luxuries, which people wanted to have included in their own homes.  Expensive cloth, lace, books, soft cushions for the Christ Child.  All of these are included in the paintings.

Basically, this is called a “new” history of the Renaissance, but I really don’t see that much new here.  I mean, it’s a cool thesis.  And I’m sure if it was assigned for a class, I might really have enjoyed the discussions that would have come from it.  But for fun reading?  Nope.  I couldn’t even finish the final three chapters.  Life is too short.

20892558But with that said, I’m incredibly stoked to be reading (courtesy of the Advanced Reader Copy from netgalley) the newest Matthew Shardlake mystery, Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake #6).  This is the 6th in the series by CJ Sansom, who creates a London in 1546 that is crazy on edge.  Matthew Shardlake is an attorney and part time private investigator who always seems to wind up investigating murders and somehow getting out of life threatening situations.

The atmosphere he writes about is so real, I can almost taste it.  He starts off with the gory description of the death of Anne Askew for heresy.   This is a period in which neither Protestants or Catholics seem to have the upper hand – Henry is changing his mind back and forth, dithering and dathering with the weather.  First the Protestants are on the rise.  Then the Catholics.  Back and forth, forth and back, with martyrs dying at every turn.  Anne Askew had the cajones to preach that the bread didn’t actually turn to Christ’s blood during Communion.  Can you imagine the brazenness of a woman to do such a thing?  The NERVE.  Who does she think she is?!

So yeah, I’m being facetious.  She was burned.  Matthew has to watch as a representative of his Inn at Court.  It’s gross.  Seriously.  Not as bad as the flaying scene in the sequel to Pillars of the Earth (that scene still makes me shudder when I think about it…quick, change the subject, seriously, it’s awful)… but it’s still pretty bad.

After that, Matthew gets called to Queen Katherine Parr’s chambers because some serious shit has gone down.  She has a protestant manuscript kept in a secret trunk.  And it’s missing.  This is bad for her.  Especially because she wrote it.  Not cool.  So now Matthew has to figure out who took it, and get it back.  Oh, and there’s a dead printer who has been found to have had access to it.  All very mysterious.  And I love it.  I first discovered Matthew Shardlake about 6 years ago, and I’m so glad I did.  I wish there were more of these books.  I want to read one every few months.  He’s seriously awesome.  If you like mystery and history, get it.  Like peanut butter and jelly, this stuff is good!