Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Tale of the Peripatetic Book

Probably my favorite book is Thomas P. F. Hoving's King of the Confessors, the story of his pursuit of the Bury St. Edmunds Cross, a beautiful and inspiring object which was known but which had been hidden for nearly eight centuries before Hoving got wind of its emergence, through the agency of a character worthy of a James Bond novel, Ante Topic Mimara Matutin.  The book is engagingly written by Hoving, who is obviously passionate about art, about the cross, and about his work.

I originally bought the book in paperback not long after it came out in 1981, and enjoyed it thoroughly.  I have reread the story a couple times since.  I lent the paperback to my friend Amanda, who lived in Crown Point, Indiana, at the time, and who was taking art lessons at the Chicago Arboretum.  She read the book and enjoyed it thoroughly, and talked it up to her classmates and her instructor.  They borrowed the book, and as Amanda told me later, by the time the book got to the instructor, it was in such rough condition that he had to do a restoration on it.  I was eagerly looking forward to seeing the restoration and getting my esteemed and beloved book back home.  Amanda, however, felt that I deserved better, and replaced the poor, well-traveled, and eagerly-devoured paperback with a hardback copy.  The delight of the hardback is the photographs of details from the cross.

This book led me to a couple others Hoving also wrote:  Tutankhamun: the Untold Story, his theory of how and why King Tut died at such a young age, and his delightful memoir of enlivening the public relations program of the rather stodgy Metropolitan Museum of Art, Making the Mummies Dance.  I enjoyed all three, but King of the Confessors is the best of the three.

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