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Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight Hardcover – 31 Mar 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (31 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241144329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144329
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Eccentric, rambling, charming . . . by turns erratic and spellbinding. Attlee is an entertaining writer, pulling off strange and daring leaps . . . thrilling. Nocturne is an inspiration. It makes you want to pull a chair out into the garden and bathe in the moonlight. No questions asked (New York Times Book Review )

Engaging, erudite, moving and impassioned . . . [Attlee is] a stylist of amazing wit and skill (Irish Times )

A poetic and passionate story of light in darkness (The Times )

Attlee is a true enthusiast, and is fascinated by, indeed loves, his subject. He writes beautifully and often thrillingly about the moon in all its - her? - aspects, and it will be a dull-minded reader who comes away from this book without a new or at least renewed regard for the extraordinary, silver satellite that is our world's constant companion (John Banville Guardian )

Richly rewarding, beautifully written and, like the moon, wonderfully reflective (Times Literary Supplement )

A wistful, fact-filled and esoteric treat (Sunday Times )

About the Author

James Attlee lives in Oxford and works in art publishing in London. He is the author of Isolarion: a Different Oxford Journey and the co-author, with Lisa Le Feuvre, of Gordon Matta-Clark: The Space Between.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An extended hymn dedicated to the moonlight and its impact on painters, mystics and poets. This is a thoughtful book which avoids the obvious cliches and at it's best hits a strong seam on the mystery of moonlight. Perhaps less gripping when making easy caricatures of pseudo scientific eccentrics and speculating on the lunar motivations of Rudolph Hess. Overall tho a great idea well executed.
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By Stewart M TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover
From the start I think I need to make it clear that there are some excellent sections in this book. But I also need to make it clear that I found it disappointing, and at time frustrating. I concede this may be due to my own interests rather than the book, but I will try and explain.

The sub-title for the book as it stands is "A Journey through Moonlight" - and I suppose I anticipated this would be about a personal journey - an actual journey - to find and experience moonlight. While some of the book does live up to this anticipation, I felt that much of the book was taken up with detailed account of other peoples experiences of moonlight. And almost without fail those "other people" were landscape painters. Now, if the book had been called "Nocturne: A journey in Search of Moonlights History" that may have been justified - but that's not the book's title. At times there are considerable sections of the book that explain who one artist worked with and influenced another and the types of painting they produced. Now, as you may have gathered, I am not an art buff, but I was unable to visualize more than about 10% of the works referred to in this book - and we are not provided with a single illustration either.

When the book concentrates on what the author did, rather than what someone else painted, the book really does come to light. The two sections that stand out are a visit to Japan and an American "moonlight concentrator" - both are unusual and interesting. Without saying too much, the writing of the book may have been hindered by less than cooperative weather, and this could be why so much of it feels second hand.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a first of its kind that I've read. It really is a fine piece of travel literature, going beyond merely describing what the author did and where he went in the journey undertaken in this book. As the author warns at the beginning, "Moonlight is a subject almost universally regarded as off-limits to contemporary writers, too kitsch, debased and sentimental to be worthy of serious consideration." However, he bravely takes on the challenge and succeeds in giving a comprehensive account of the religious and cultural significance of the moon and its light in many different cultures.

For example, "Buddha is said to have been born at full moon; in Buddhist iconography the lunar phase has come to represent enlightenment.", "The new moon at this time of year in the Islamic calendar marks the beginning of Ramadan and my Muslim neighbors have arrived, having broken their fast, bearing gifts of food." Beyond the use of the lunar cycle to measure time, it is evident that the Moon has never failed to inspire many generations of artists and poets alike. The very- troubled but very great Italian writer/poet/philosopher Giacomo Leopardi sought answers to existential questions from the moon, "struck by the similarities between his own life and the life of the moon." After all, "each has its eternal rhythms; each, to him, seems equally futile."

It helps that the author is observant, witty and insightful, which makes for an interesting experience and read as he travels (from the blurb) from Normandy to Naples, Wales to Arizona, Las Vegas to Japan. After all, the journey is not always filled with total pleasure as a couple of his trips go awry. Also, the travel was undertaken with financial assistance provided by the Author's Foundation.
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Format: Hardcover
James Attlee's new book, Nocturne, is an inspiring and compelling journey into the forgotten world of moonlight. He embarked on his idiosyncratic quest in search of moonlight as a kind of poetic protest against the way our modern civilization constantly bathes us in artificial lights, obscuring the potential beauties and meanings that moonlight might have for us. Although I enjoyed Attlee's previous book, Isolarion, a philosophical walk along a street in his home city of Oxford, Nocturne is even better, giving greater scope to his eclectic intelligence, and more space to demonstrate himself as a fine prose stylist, especially through his subtle descriptions of moonlit artworks. Attlee takes us on a fascinating global tour of lunar culture, visiting Japan to pay homage at the autumn moon festival, and then to join eccentric moonlight addicts in the deserts of Arizona. We also travel with him through history, from Galileo's observations of moon craters in the seventeenth century to the strange story of Rudolph Hess's obsession with the moon. After reading Nocturne, I went straight out and bought a telescope - and have been entranced by the moon ever since. A luminous, engaging and completely original book.
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