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Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of a Thousand Years of Artistic Life In Russia Hardcover – March 1, 1998
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This slim volume tackles an overwhelming subject: 1,000 years of Russian achievements in the arts, from medieval ikons to the novels of Tolstoy to the films of Eisenstein. Much has been written about the subject over the years, but Lincoln poses himself a slightly different task: to depict not so much the history of Russian arts as the history of the country's "artistic experience," including the "social and political forces" that shaped artistic creation. Author of such histories as Romanovs and Nicholas I, Lincoln ably provides the context such a task requires. Unfortunately, Lincoln's purple prose can sometimes be distracting. No one ever seems to merely wear a medal, they wear it "proudly"; a building is not simply painted turquoise when it can be "brilliant" turquoise. Here, for instance, is Lincoln on the music of Rimsky-Korsakov: "Oceans churned, storms thundered, the sun sparkled in wintry forests, and in the new warmth of spring nightingales sang and golden fish leaped from crystal streams." Overall, however, Lincoln's marriage of history and the arts is a happy one, demonstrating how the peculiarly Russian tension between East and West and between politics and the arts helped produce artistic works that were both uniquely beautiful and uniquely Russian.
Especially in the first quarter of the book, the reader has the same sensation of glut--cathedrals, dates, rulers, isms--that comes from a tour guide's breathless patter.... All this is a shame because Lincoln ... has clearly done epic research for this book, which, once it settles down, especially in its treatment of the 19th and 20th centuries, has both good anecdotes and good insights.... -- The New York Times Book Review, Richard Lourie
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Top Customer Reviews
In its day, The Idylls of the King was one of the most celebrated, best-selling, and influential works of literature that there was. If one is a reader, this should be on one's list, and better still on one's bookshelf or nightstand.
But such was my experience. Perhaps you may find that this edition plays better on an actual Kindle, or on beefier device (an iPad, or a computer). In any event, be careful and good luck. Ciao.
This is one of my favorite Arthurian romances. Tennyson's verse is beautiful and vivid, and his story is both compelling and easy to follow. No study of English Romanticism would be complete without Tennyson, and this is one of his finest works.
Tennyson recasts the individual stories of the knights in his own poetic vision, and in some instances invents his own anecdotes or contributes his own details, merging chivalric imagery with post-Romantic lyrical beauty. As an Arthurian medium, Tennyson's verse is much more readable than Malory's cumbersome prose (a forgivable style owing to Malory's time, but difficult to appreciate nowadays unless you have a taste for the archaic). As irresistibly dazzling as a hyperbole like "The wood is nigh as full of thieves as leaves" is, there is much more to the "Idylls" than linguistic elegance.
Arthur is nearly a Christ-figure, and his knights are not unlike the apostles: "[F]ollow the Christ, the King,/Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King--/Else, wherefore born?" the idealistic Gareth rhetorically asks his mother just before journeying to Camelot to fulfill his dream of joining the Round Table. Knighthood is a mission in life, a devotion to the service of God and the king (or King, to use the Christian allegory). In the Arthurian milieu, knights represent the highest, most virtuous ideal of mankind, though in practice they occasionally fail, falter, and face moral dilemmas that help to build character. Such conflicts also compel the poem, for an infallible knight hardly makes for interesting reading.
To be sent on a quest is not a chore but an honor of which a knight must be deemed worthy by Arthur. Prove yourself inept, and he won't even send you to the McDonald's drive-thru to pick him up a Big Mac. Whether rescuing a lady from a castle guarded by evil knights (Gareth), delivering a diamond as a prize to the winner of a joust (Gawain), searching for the Holy Grail (Galahad), or even properly disposing of the sword Excalibur upon Arthur's death (Bedivere), a knight is expected to obey and succeed.
The vicissitudes of love often pose ethical challenges for the knights and provide the most memorable scenes of the poem, as adultery, jealousy, and betrayal set the stage for turbulent drama. The illicit affair of Lancelot and Guinevere, Arthur's wife, the tragic story of Elaine, the peasant girl who pledges her love to Lancelot, the punishment meted out to Tristram by his uncle Mark for the seduction of Isolt, and Pelleas's amorous pursuit of the hellion Ettarre, are the essence of legend.
The tale that somehow haunts me the most is that of Merlin and Vivien, which ominously takes place in a forest just before a storm. The petulant Vivien disparages Arthur's knights and tries to coax a love spell out of the ancient but apparently still libidinous wizard; having achieved her objective as the storm breaks, she runs away from the beguiled and sleeping magician as the uttered word "fool" echoes through the trees--a very poetic representation of lust subduing and fleeing wisdom.