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Satyr Square: A Year, a Life in Rome

Leonard Barkan, Author
Leonard Barkan, Author . FSG $24 (289p) ISBN 978-0-374-25405-6
Paperback - 289 pages - 978-0-8101-2494-3
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Barkan, a Princeton professor of comparative literature, spent a year in Rome working on a book on the Roman Renaissance practice of exhuming ancient sculpture (Unearthing the Past ). In true academic manner, Barkan recounts his year through critiques of the art and society surrounding him, from the contemporary literature that graced the bookshelf in his fifth-floor apartment and the recording of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni that was his first serious introduction to the Italian language, to the buildings along his daily jaunts. As Barkan reads into Rome, Rome "reads" him and the same art that he studies acts as a key to uncover his own layers of self. In a simplistic example, Barkan's study of the eternal fascination with Spinaro , a bronze sculpture of a youth continually represented in Roman art, illuminates his own attraction to an equally striking young man. This weighty read feels like a multicourse meal served too quickly; one is left feeling overfull from not being able to savor one course before the subsequent one arrives. Yet Barkan's critical prowess is enviable, and the overarching theme of art's universal and everlasting power to represent life is satisfying to anyone dedicated to art or its study. (Oct.)

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