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In Ruins [Paperback]

Christopher Woodward
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Oct 2002
Why are we so fascinated by ruins? Do we see them as jig-saws and riddles or romantic evocations of the damage of Time, complete with crumbling stone and ivy? Do they stir us to remember past glory or warn against future arrogance? In this elegant, provocative book , the brilliant young art-historian Christopher Woodward looks back to the start of the cult in the eighteenth century, when follies were built in English landscape gardens, artists and writers thrilled to Rome's poetry of decay, and in Paris the great chef Careme even served blancmanges shaped like classical ruins. He takes us from Troy and Pompei to Sicilian palaces and Nazi fantasies, and whirls us forward to modern times - to the shattered Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes, to Florida's Museum of Natural Phenomena, designed as a court-house dumped upside-down by a hurricane and to Chelsea Flower Show's brand-new 'Millennium Ruin'. Even the decay of an ordinary house can be as moving as the collapse of a temple - with its fascinating stories and characters, and its telling illustrations, In Ruins is full of strange delights and startling surprises, exploring the mysterious, melancholy charm of eternal fragments.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (3 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099289555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099289555
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 350,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This book itself is marvellous proof that the prospect of ruins can elicit the finest cadences of the language, whereby a languorous and clamant prose is drawn out of the spectacle of desuetude and decay-In Ruins is a rich and absorbing volume" (Peter Ackroyd The Times)

"Woodward ravishes the reader with the sudden twists and turns of his elegant narrative as it moves in whatever direction he wishes it to go-Woodward's infectious enthusiasm for his subject will send his readers in many new directions" (Frances Spalding Sunday Times)

"Christopher Woodward's paean of praise to the ruin fizzes with felicitous detail, anecdote, literary reference and art history-An enchanting and informative voyage" (Evening Standard)

"An enchanting kaleidoscope of ruins from all times, cultures, and places, is full of stimulating juxtapositions" (Country Life)

Book Description

‘This book itself is marvelous proof that the prospect of ruins can elicit the finest cadences of the language… a rich and absorbing volume’ Peter Ackroyd, The Times

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic for the Ages 31 Oct 2001
The erudite Woodward has written an enormously entertaining and illuminating book whose rich, flowing prose is a pleasure to read. History is blended with the starkness of the modern world and transmitted to the reader redolent with imagery. Woodward's broad, firm grasp of history, and effective weaving of desperate elements, produces a satisfying read for those intrigued by the forgotten corners of the world and the mystery of the past. "In Ruins" is destined to become a classic. The residue of a romantic, misty past lingers long after the last page is turned
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
To confirm previous reviews, there is a lack of harmony and connection between the different chapters which are mostly case studies on specific monuments or places involved in the history of ruins in various ways.

The writing style itself, with this piecemeal feeling to the whole book as a gathering of discrete chapters, feels a bit as if it had been inspired by ruins, elaborated like the disjointed drums of a fallen Antique column.

The various chapters, as case studies, are mostly anecdotal or descriptive, and one wishes the author proposed more width of analysis developed from the various material under scrutiny.

Ultimately, this book still provides an informed and informative reading on the chosen theme, although it is a bit weak on the argumentative side.

I. Who Killed Daisy Miller?, 1
II. A Perverse Pleasure, 32
III. Haunted Houses, 45
IV. Ephesus without an Umbrella, 63
V. An Exemplary Frailty, 88
VI. Time's Shipwreck, 108
VII. Serious Follies, 136
VIII. Self-portrait in Ruins, 161
IX. The Ozymandias Complex, 177
X. Dust in the Air Suspended, 205
XI. The Novelist, the Fisherman and the Prince, 227
Acknowledgements, 251
Illustrations, 254
Notes, 257
Index, 269
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The love of collapse 3 Dec 2002
I finished reading this piece while eating lunch at work in an office overlooking a church - roofless and leaning, a victim of the second Great War. The ruins of the building are fenced off from the public, and while you can linger in gardens outside the chapel, its grounds are closed to the possibility of soporific loiterers.
As Woodward acknowledges, this is less a work of architectural history than a overview of the Romantic possibilities of collapse. The author intersperses his own love-affair with the mystery of the untouched ruin with that of poets, eccentrics and fallen Princes through the ages. At once personal and engaging, the book is a captivating history of man's relationship with the physical remains of rise and fall of civilisations.
My only complaint would be with the publisher's emission of a glossy photo section. The black and white digital pictures within do not capture the intensity of some of the artworks they reproduce.
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