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Book Title: Quattrocento|
The author of the book: James N. McKean
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Reader ratings: 3.6
Edition: Hodder & Stoughton
Date of issue: July 1st 2002
ISBN 13: 9780733614507
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.21 MB
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In the tradition of Time and Again, a sweeping love story/time-travel epic situated between the modern-day New York art world and fifteenth-century Tuscany.
Matt O'Brien has a quiet life: A painting restorer with a particular love of the Quattrocento period of the Italian Renaissance, he toils away millimeter by millimeter, bringing old oils to new light. But one day he happens upon a painting in the basement of the Metropolitan Museum that is thick with centuries of yellowed varnish and dust. As he uncovers the portrait of a mysterious, beautiful woman, he finds himself suffering from an urgent sense of déja vu coupled with the pain of falling in love with a person long dead. Meanwhile, strange things have been happening in the museum since the installation of a wood-paneled room from Gubbio called a studiolo. As Matt increasingly seeks refuge in this magical room from the pressures of having potentially discovered a Leonardo da Vinci, the centuries slip away and he finds himself in the center of a love triangle, with Anna on one side and the Machiavellian knight Leandro, fighting for her fortune, on the other.
Obsession and passion combust in this exotic tale that is at once contemporary and rich in period detail. Rooted in art history, music theory, and the rudiments of physics, McKean's debut novel is a mesmerizing tale of time travel and possibility. With twists and turns that are as thrilling as they are unexpected, Quattrocento is escapist storytelling at its very finest.
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I’ve been a violinmaker since 1973, when I was among the first group of students at the first school for the craft in America, started that year in Salt Lake City. After graduating I returned to New York – I’d grown up north of the city, in Chappaqua – to work under an expert in restoration and setup. While learning restoration I continued making instruments. Researching varnish recipes led me back to the Renaissance and methods of surface preparation and painting materials. I had by this time begun writing for Strings Magazine on various aspects of the violin. An article on the 20th anniversary of the school in Salt Lake was my first experience beyond technical writing. Character, dialog, the arc of a story; I was hooked. Thousands of pages later, several manuscripts begun, finished, set aside; and then a fortuitous introduction to an agent led to active commercial interest in something I had written. Nothing came of it, but it was the same flash of insight I had experienced back when I was a student of Russian and had read an article about a violinmaker’s apprenticeship in Europe: yes, people do make violins. And now, yes: books do get published. I had grown up in a literary family – my grandfather was an author, my father an editor and writer, my mother a librarian – and yet the actual world of publishing had seemed as distant as Utah had, when I had first dropped out of college and headed west for an improbable future.
At the same time that I was deep into the books and old manuscripts on the methods of the old Italian artists I met an amateur violinist who became not just a client but a close friend. A quantum physicist, he would at our occasional lunches tell me stories of studying with Neils Bohr and Walter Heisenberg. I began to read general histories of science, and then physics; and then the two worlds of physics and art converged, and the idea for Quattrocento was born. In the process of the novel coming to fruition I discovered what a rare combination of hard work and pure luck are required, and more, what the world of publishing looked like from the inside.
The process is so all-consuming, though, that I had to set my tools aside. I was very glad to get back to the bench. I continued writing about fiddles for the magazine, but my plans for the next novel continually got postponed: there was always a set of wood beckoning. And – the truth? – Writing is just very, very hard work. And solitary. More so than making fiddles; when you write, you leave this world for another. Making violins, though, places you in the center of this world: there is no place better to be than listening to Lester Young or Benny Goodman and carving a scroll. Unless it’s watching your son play baseball or walk onto a stage.
And then a close friend whom we had gone to violinmaking school with succumbed to leukemia. Along with another friend he and I had been making a set of three violins; using identical sets of wood and patterns, we were curious to see how different the results would be. We finished Art’s violin; and then decided to make a cello in his memory and give it to Juilliard. Quattrocento had been about love, the good old American popular song kind; but I wanted to somehow, if I could, draw a portrait of a deeper and more abiding affection: friendship. The result is Between the Notes, which I’m publishing with Northshire Books.
And meanwhile, I go on making violins. Cellos, mostly; I just finished a 5-string cello for Carter Brey, the principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, so that he could play the Bach 6th solo suite as originally written at a recital next month. My shop is upstairs at our house, looking out at the barn and indoor ring; my girlfriend has an active riding business – arcadiafarminc.com – in Yorktown Hts. I’ve been hearing for almost half a century that both publishing and classical music are dying. That must be in one of those parallel worlds; in this one, they’re doing just fine.
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