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The Artist, the Philosopher, and the…

The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da…

by Paul Strathern

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2262378,375 (3.51)18



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The idea behind this book is that the interactions between Cesare Borgia, Niccolo Macchiavelli, and Leonardo da Vinci had life and history-changing effects on all three, as well as the history of Italy. The problem with this thesis is that most of those interactions are undocumented, so beyond the obvious, much of the reasoning behind these assertions is based on deduction and guesswork, and at times seemed to me more appropriate to classify as possibility than fact. Aside from this flaw, the author expresses these interactions in the course of describing the life of all 3 men and much of the history of Italy during the reign of Pope Alexander VI and the life of his son, Cesare Borgia. This is interesting all by itself and, for me, was enough to make me overlook the author's aggressive assumptions made regarding all three men. ( )
  baobab | Aug 24, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I can't believe it. ! I thought this book was never going to arrive! I was to receive my advance copy in 2009, and just found out that my elderly neighbor had taken it to her home. Her daughter thinks she may have more of my mail as well! This explains a lot.

Anyway I read some of this book last night (five years too late!), and was not super impressed with what I read. The interconnection of the biographies to me did not seem to flow naturally. The format was interesting, although the content which could have been spectacular reading was just okay. I didn't really have time to go through everything, so I may revisit the book to read more closely some of the parts I kinda skimmed over. At that point I will readdress my review. ( )
  annesion | Apr 8, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had a hard time getting through this one, though I was enthusiastic about both the subject matter and the genre of multiple intersecting biographies. It's obvious that a lot of work went into writing the book, so I feel bad giving it less than two stars, but I was not able to finish it with enthusiasm. ( )
  theresearcher | Mar 18, 2013 |
Loved it - highly readable and hard to put down. Fascinating individuals in a fascinating period of history. ( )
  PaolaF | Dec 22, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book took me nearly 2 years to read from start to finish. Of course I read about 150 other books in between starting and finishing it so I want to decipher why.

For me, it really was that this was a poorly written book. It wanted to be one thing and failed at it, then tried to be another, and was terrible in its effort. First I thought the author wanted us to be presented with a great piece of history, beyond what you would find in a textbook, or a dissertation.

As I read this though, we hear too much of the author's opinions, and his prose is too often evident to show that we have a scholarly work. We have something that jumps to conclusions of the authors own presumptions, and then turning back to a text based history, cites other historians who have written about our three characters we are studying.

That confusion, along with the introduction of a tremendous amount of supporting characters with little context and little mapping as we read along, left me so confused that I put down the book again and again. By our title, I would have expected to have seen closer how Da Vinci, Michiavelli, and Borgia influenced one another. What I am left with is that Borgia is the glue, and far too little is there for the author to tell us how they did interact.

He surmises from the lives of the artist and philosopher after Borgia's fall, that Borgia gave them a reason to change in their lives. But from my interpretation of this work, Borgia gave everyone a reason to change. Perhaps 350 years too soon, he tried to reunify Italy, and in hindsight was the best man for the job. Cesare comes off to me in all this more heroic then either of the other two, and yet he falls from power the quickest and much sooner is off to the grave then the other two men.

I shall never reread this work, and do not know that I got much from it. I think instead of, like a bell shaped curve, telling us the three biographies, concentrating on the years that their lives intersected, making that the only focus of the piece, with much more supporting material, would have been a better work. ( )
1 vote DWWilkin | Jul 14, 2011 |
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[...] with more imagination and speculative flair, Strathern could have produced a truly wonderful book, but at the crucial moments he seems to lack the belief to bridge convincingly the gaps in his story and relies on stock phrases such as: "We can only speculate as to what these two men talked about."

This is a shame because the story he has to tell is exciting and revealing; the characters are in some ways antithetical and in others oddly similar (all three, for instance, were atheists and almost ludicrously ambitious); and the narrative has a natural arc, beginning in hope and fear and climaxing in deceit and bloodshed. A great tale that could have been even better told.
added by bewogenlucht | editThe Guardian, Sam Taylor (Mar 15, 2009)
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A meticulous account of Renaissance Italy during the turbulent decade around 1500, with emphasis on several important players: Alexander Borgia (also known as Pope Alexander VI) and his son Cesare, Machiavelli the philosopher-diplomat and author of The Prince, and Leonardo da Vinci--inventor, artist, and military engineer.

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