- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Melville House; Reprint edition (April 3, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1612197159
- ISBN-13: 978-1612197159
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #586,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Becoming Leonardo: An Exploded View of the Life of Leonardo da Vinci Paperback – April 3, 2018
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A WALL STREET JOURNAL BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF 2017
"I found Mr. Lankford’s writing thought-provoking and Mr. Isaacson’s thought-stifling. Mr.Lankford proposes a great many insights...With immediacy and grace, “Becoming Leonardo” starts on a high note and gets better to the very end.—WALL STREET JOURNAL
“Mike Lankford offers a compelling tour d’horizon of Leonardo’s life and work, using the known facts as jumping-off points for tantalizing (but still level-headed) speculations and reconstructions. In challenging old clichés and assumptions, and assessing the ambiguous evidence from fresh new angles, he paints one of the most intimate and clear-sighted portraits we’re likely to have of such an elusive artist.” —Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome
“With scholarly research and a novelist’s ability to zoom in and paint a truly intimate portrait of one of the greatest creators in human history, Becoming Leonardo does what historians long to do, and novelists often struggle to achieve. A book that has the pace, elegance, and authorial omnipresence of a novel, but which will enlighten, rather than annoy, the astute historian.” —Noah Charney, best-selling author of The Art of Forgery
“Fun and enlightening…Lankford’s unconventional approach provides for a deeper appreciation of a genius.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Lankford, while steeped in historical resources, dates, and places, doesn’t get bogged down in dry recitations of facts; he’s always trying to get at da Vinci the man..What comes through...are da Vinci’s humanity, foibles, and imperfections alongside his gifts.”—SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT
“Many books have been written on the life of Leonardo da Vinci...But no one has probed his soul and speculated so profoundly about his actions quite the way Mike Lankford does...Strips away the polish and shows the man with all his peculiarities.”—SHELF AWARENESS
“A creative biography of the great Renaissance artist and inventor, taking the bare factual outline we have of da Vinci's life and and filling it in with 15th-century Italy's society, culture and history; the people and personalities who surrounded da Vinci; and the constancies of human nature.”—OREGONIAN
“All those things you think you know about Leonardo Da Vinci? You may want to put them aside after you’ve read Becoming Leonardo...Peeks into the life and quirks of the master as it takes you back several centuries to Renaissance Italy.”—IDAHO PRESS-TRIBUNE
“Like a jazz musician taking a theme and improvising upon it, [Lankford] evokes aspects of da Vinci's personal and professional life and imagines (and reimagines) them. He doesn't dispute facts; he just asks 'What if?' and his slightly irreverent, totally accessible style only increases our appreciation of this great artist and complex human being.”—BOOKLIST/American Library Association
“A strange, passionate, impressionistic biographical meditation...Lankford has produced a reading experience far more similar to Sebastian de Grazia’s surreal life of Machiavelli, Machiavelli in Hell—and every bit as rewarding.” —OPEN LETTERS MONTHLY
“Provocative...Lankford...argues that da Vinci’s human frailty made him the genius we know today.”—QUARTZ
“An original take on one of the most famous artists in history, Becoming Leonardo debunks much of what other biographers have written and the historical claims they’ve made…Becoming Leonardo seeks to find Da Vinci’s brilliance in an individual so difficult to comprehend.” —ITALIAN AMERICA
"Mike Lankford’s genial and sassy biography Becoming Leonardo: An Exploded View of the Life of Leonardo da Vinci has none of the stuffiness of that exhausting genre. Little is known about the day-to-day Leonardo, but Lankford’s passionate, intelligent speculations bring the shadow to life." —THE SPECTATOR
About the Author
Mike Lankford's Becoming Leonardo was selected by the Wall Street Journal as a 2017 Book of the Year. He is also the author of Life in Double Time: Confessions of an American Drummer, selected best music book of the year by eight major newspapers including the Chicago Tribune. He lives in Bend, Oregon.
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In bringing Leonardo to life Lankford also recreates the Renaissance as it really was: a violent, dirty place rank with bad smells and disease, where conquering armies stood ready to upend society by overthrowing one tyrant and replacing him with another. Far from being the universally recognized and admired genius we know today, Leonardo spent much of his life in the shadows, wisely lying low when epidemics and warfare grew too close for comfort, departing one city for another when danger loomed, and seeking income and safety from a variety of patrons whose volatile careers threatened to destroy him more than once. Leonardo bubbled over with ideas and plans, often quickly sketched out or described in his famous mirror writing in a series of notebooks, but unfortunately rarely got around to seeing his ideas come to fruition. He was a notorious perfectionist, keeping some paintings with him for years while abruptly abandoning others, experimenting with new paints and mixtures that often decayed or molded, and always highly distractable, unable to focus on any of the twenty or thirty tasks he seemed to have on hand at any one time.
Lankford uses a modern vernacular which is informal and often irreverent, superb for conveying the full flavor of Leonardo's life and times. He does a superb job of surmising the many missing chapters in Leonardo's life, including how long he must have spent in jail on a sodomy charge, or how he must have reacted to the many wars that raged across Renaissance Italy, or indeed what it was like to actually be Leonardo: bewhiskered, sometimes brightly dressed but more often shabby, his sexuality a matter for speculation then and now, in turns arrogant, haughty, or humble until finally, at the (then advanced) age of 64, he finally wore himself out.
There are more scholarly and more thoroughly documented biographies of Leonardo available, but none will bring him to life so well as Becoming Leonardo.
So, what is this book? I would describe it as a riff on leonardo's life and work by someone with a good eye, a distaste for cant, and a lively sense of the realities of life in Leonardo's lifetime; presented without ahistorical moralizing. Lankford also does not make outsize claims for Leonardo as a scientist or "genius". (Do people really think Leonardo was the first man to imagine a flying machine?) I think it is meant for readers who already know something about Leonardo; it is not really an "introduction" or survey. Highly recommended, in any case. (Aside: compare the educated but skeptical common sense of this author to Freud's laughable book about Leonardo.)