Friday, January 22, 2016

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW A Novel of Peter Bruegel by Rudy Rucker

If you have read Girl with a Pearl Earring and enjoyed the references to Vermeer’s paintings, you will likely enjoy reading Rudy Rucker’s imagined tale of artist Peter Bruegel’s progress with his many paintings. The story ends before his two sons, Little Peter and Jan, took up the brush. 

Each of Rucker’s chapters is headed with the title and photograph of a Bruegel painting. The journey begins in the French-Italian Alps and Rome, but quickly moves to Belgium, mainly in Antwerp and Brussels. 

Life in the middle 1500s was not easy, what with the Inquisition breathing down your neck or lopping off your head at the neck. But even with an uneasy certainty that someone you knew would soon be hung or headless, life went on in soap opera fashion. Family life, friendships, feuds and patched relationships abound with humor and tragedy mingled together in a fascinating narrative. 

Throughout, Bruegel’s dry humor and joie de vivre shine a bright central light on the tale and move the story forward. A comment that especially struck me was: 

“That was the thing about art:
your fingers spilled the secrets of your soul
before you knew them yourself.” 

Another comment that remains vivid in my mind is presented after Peter Bruegel witnesses an everyday scene in a street filled with descriptive characters and everyday occurrences: 

“—life was endlessly rich and endlessly various,
and it could take a man eight years simply to paint
one single moment of one single day.” 

This intimate look at Bruegel’s Beekeepers, Beggars, and Birdsnesters is well worth reading. 

Next up for review is:
Kill Switch by Steve N Lee

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