Outdoor Monuments in the NYT

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dianne Durante's Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide has been favorably reviewed by the New York Times. You'll want to search "Outdoor Monuments" to bypass the more extensive review of the autobiography of one Nicky Barnes, a 74-year-old former dope peddler, to get to it, though.

Her guidebook is a perfect walking-tour accompaniment to help New Yorkers and visitors find, identify and better appreciate statues famous and obscure (honoring, among others, the "father of gynecology" and the general who had an unremarkable military and business career but composed taps, the bugle call).
If the above link to the review does not work, Dr. Durante quotes it in its entirety (and is offering to email copies of the scanned page to interested readers) at her blog, Forgotten Delights, which you can now reach through a link in my sidebar.

Based on her articles in The Objective Standard, I would say that it's a safe bet that the book will be well worth it -- even if you never step foot in New York. (Here are a few opening paragraphs from each of the TOS articles, "Getting More Enjoyment from Art You Love" and the fascinating "19th-Century French Painting and Philosophy".) From the first of these:
Favorite artworks play a very special role in our lives. They provide us with enjoyment and inspiration. They help us to recall important events of the past and to project our course of action in the future. They help us to relax when the time is right and to exert ourselves when appropriate. Art, in short, helps us to live and makes life more enjoyable -- which is why we value our favorite works as we do.

Given the vital role of art in our lives, it is worth asking: Are we getting the most from the art we love? Are we extracting all the pleasure we can from these wonderful works? Or are we missing something -- perhaps something crucial -- that would make them even more meaningful, more powerful, more life-serving? There is usually much more to a work of art than one can glean in a passive viewing, listening, or reading. To get the most out of a work of art, we must approach it with an active mind. In the case of a work of visual art, such as sculpture or painting, we must study its details, ask the right questions, and identify its meaning or theme. Heightened awareness gives rise to heightened enjoyment -- and the reward is well worth the effort.
The best advice I can give to those unfamiliar with the TOS articles is to subscribe.

A very close second would be to visit the blog of Forgotten Delights, where the author offers some of her insights about and presents interesting facts pertaining to the sculptures she reviews in the book. For example, in reading her entry on a statue of William Shakespeare, one learns the following:
"About the Subject" reviews New Yorkers' attitudes toward Shakespeare through the 19th century. Did you know that in 1849 twenty-two people were killed at Astor Place in riots over a certain actor's portrayal of Macbeth?
I applaud the Times for its positive review, but its apparent sense of priorities has me scratching my head -- and wanting to crack wise about whether Nicky Barnes really has stopped dealing drugs and whether the staff of the Times are customers. But I'll stop now. Instead, I'll take the page layout as an unintentional demonstration of why we so urgently need the emotional fuel of good art in this day and age. Just look at what the dominant culture would have us thinking about instead!

-- CAV

PS: I originally learned of the favorable review through HBL.


Today: Added hyperlink for book. This leads to a paperback edition, but from that page, the hardcover edition is also available.

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