Stone, Irving "The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo" - 1961
A book about the life and art of Michelangelo. What a book! What a man! His life was his work and his work was his life. He just seemed to know and be able to do anything. How interesting it must have been for someone like him to live in such an age where you have to find out for yourself and can't just look it up on the internet. Even though there was a lot of agony, didn't the ecstasy more than compensate for it?
It took must of us longer (up to six months) to read the book than we thought.
It was not what we expected, some thought there was too much detail, we liked his approach, how he got into it, the concept of the family, how he still had to support them and couldn't escape. Of course, there were different times, the children were the life insurance.
We enjoyed the parts where he was painting, studying the people, his work is just lovely.
It was interesting to see how he had to worry about his art when a pope died, his relationships/friendships were a great factor. The problems between church and state, well, you have them anytime you mix religion and state, you have a theocratic regime. But the author put a lot of thought into that and described it very well. We received a great insight into that time, religion, power, interests.
He lived in a world where a lot of interests were everything, both Michelangelo and da Vinci were acknowledged in their own time (doesn't happen very often). During his apprenticeship, he was also taught about life in general. According to da Vinci, sculpture is inferior to painting, this was a lifelong battle. We all agreed that everything is so easy in our time, and that doesn't create great people. This was a chance to talk about our children and what their future looks like. Kids used to have more competence.
The question came up whether the area of writing a major piece is gone. Whether this is also only possible in desperate times. We couldn't find an answer.
We have a recommendation if you haven't read the book, yet. Look at the chronological lists in the back before (and while) you read the book.
Definitely a very worthwile and deserving book.
We discussed this in our book club in August 2008.
From the back cover:
"Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo's David, New American Library releases a special edition of Irving Stone's classic biographical novel-in which both the artist and the man are brought to life in full. A masterpiece in its own right, this novel offers a compelling portrait of Michelangelo's dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known.
Author Biography: Irving Stone was born in San Francisco on July 14, 1903. He wrote several books in a genre that he coined the "biographical novel," which recounted the lives of well-known historical figures. In these novels, Stone interspersed biography with fictional narrative on the psychology and private lives of his subjects. He also wrote biographies of Clarence Darrow and Earl Warren, and short biographies of men who lost presidential elections. He died on August 26, 1989."