I just read a list of upcoming books for the fall compiled by Barnes and Noble. Wow! Where to start? I am interested in almost every one on the list. Highlights include a book by Jonathan Harr (author of A Civil Action) on the search for a missing painting by Caravaggio; the third and final volume of Frank McCourt’s memoirs (of Angela’s Ashes fame); an in-depth look at Abraham Lincoln from Pulitzer Prize-winner Doris Kearns Goodwin; and a unique look at Venice by John Berendt (author of the wonderful Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
This is only a few that catch my attention on this list (also set for fall are Simon Winchester’s book on the San Francisco earthquake, a biography of Andrew Jackson by H.W. Brands, Bruce Feiler’s latest on the Holy Land, and … I have to stop). Take a look at this list for yourself. It’s just too much. I am swearing off bad TV for the next few months.
I think Harr’s book looks particularly interesting. His last book, A Civil Action, was wonderful. It is in my mind one of the best long-form narrative nonfiction books around. Here is what the publisher writes about The Lost Painting, which comes out October 25:
"An Italian village on a hilltop near the Adriatic coast, a decaying palazzo facing the sea, and in the basement, cobwebbed and dusty, lit by a single bulb, an archive unknown to scholars. Here, a young graduate student from Rome, Francesca Cappelletti, makes a discovery that inspires a search for a work of art of incalculable value, a painting lost for almost two centuries.
"The artist was Caravaggio, a master of the Italian Baroque. He was a genius, a revolutionary painter, and a man beset by personal demons. Four hundred years ago, he drank and brawled in the taverns and streets of Rome, moving from one rooming house to another, constantly in and out of jail, all the while painting works of transcendent emotional and visual power. He rose from obscurity to fame and wealth, but success didn’t alter his violent temperament. His rage finally led him to commit murder, forcing him to flee Rome a hunted man. He died young, alone, and under strange circumstances.
"Caravaggio scholars estimate that between sixty and eighty of his works are in existence today. Many others-no one knows the precise number-have been lost to time. Somewhere, surely, a masterpiece lies forgotten in a storeroom, or in a small parish church, or hanging above a fireplace, mistaken for a mere copy.
"Prize-winning author Jonathan Harr embarks on an spellbinding journey to discover the long-lost painting known as The Taking of Christ-its mysterious fate and the circumstances of its disappearance have captivated Caravaggio devotees for years. After Francesca Cappelletti stumbles across a clue in that dusty archive, she tracks the painting across a continent and hundreds of years of history. But it is not until she meets Sergio Benedetti, an art restorer working in Ireland, that she finally manages to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle.
"Told with consummate skill by the writer of the bestselling, award-winning A Civil Action, The Lost Painting is a remarkable synthesis of history and detective story. The fascinating details of Caravaggio’s strange, turbulent career and the astonishing beauty of his work come to life in these pages. Harr’s account is not unlike a Caravaggio painting: vivid, deftly wrought, and enthralling."