Saturday, March 14, 2009

Well-read Weekend #3

Another Saturday, another trip to the library. This week, my stack of checked out books has gotten quite large. It's the trap of the 'hold this item for me' button. You see, the Jamaica Plain library branch is quite small. It's a place that exudes literary magic--old, old fiction paperbacks and dated non-fiction. A sizable travel book collection and a curious shelf on JP history. It's all housed in a building that I'm sure was once some one's home with dark wooden paneling and high ceilings. It invites you to pull up a chair.

But then there's the other several dozen branches out there. All connected online, you can surf them all at once, create a saved wish-list and with one click the book you desire is whisked right to your branch. You get a call when it arrives. I recommend seeing if your library does this.

It's dangerous to have so many books at one's fingertips. I get greedy, and then stressed as the due-date approaches and they are yet to be read.

Here's one such stress-inducer that isn't quite done yet:

Gaudí: A Biography by Gijs Van Hensbergen

What is Barcelona without Gaudi? Just another Valencia with second-rate paella. Gaudi not only puts the facade on Barcelona, but infuses it with soul too. His ideas of Catalan nationalism and his helping birth the modernista movement is what creates the Barcelona of today.

To think that his architecture was laughed at back in his day: "I don't know whether we are graduating a genius or a fool," declared his patron upon graduating him from architecture school. Famous Barcelonian resident, George Orwell despised his buildings. Today he is revered. There's even an effort to have him sainted.

Though little records remain of his life, author Hensbergen does an amazing job at piecing together the information we have left, weaving it in with the politics and cultural revitalization of turn of the century Catalunya. The result is a deep delving into the brain of one of the greatest architects of all time and a picture of the shaping of the pride of a nationless state. There's a lot of guessing of the part of the author as to what made Gaudi such a devout Christian, vegetarian and celibate, but he walks us through all his reasoning and evidence of his answers.

If going to Barcelona, it is best to know a bit about the man at the forefront of the Catalan spirit and so many spots on your tourist map. I highly recommend as a read for those on their way to this modernista beacon.

Haven't been to Barcelona and want to know what all the fuss is about for Gaudi's architecture? A simple google image search of 'Gaudi' will give you the answer.

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