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Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World Paperback – Oct 2001

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Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World + La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Books (Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038572019X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385720199
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 423,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter D'Epiro was educated at Queens College in New York (BA and MA) and Yale University (PhD). His third book, What Are the 7 Wonders of the World?, is a handbook of cultural information presented via 101 highly readable essays. His next book, Sprezzatura, is a survey of Italian civilization, from the ancient Romans to the present. His latest work, The Book of Firsts, is a mini-course in Western civilization, from Caesar Augustus to the Internet, in the form of 150 essays focusing on the earliest appearance of various institutions, religious movements, artistic styles, inventions, innovations, and historical nightmares. The three books, comprising more than 1500 pages of adventures in high culture, are a distillation of D'Epiro's "must-know" information culled from a lifetime of study and research. These are the "basics" that you won't find anywhere else at a comparable price.

Inside This Book

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"With his chief consultant, Sosigenes, an Alexandrian Greek astronomer and mathematician, Caesar devised a new calendar for the new Rome he was to rule, from Spain to the Middle East: a purely solar calendar of 12 months and 365 days with a leap year occurr" Read the first page
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Fannon on 16 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Amazon.com: 29 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A remarkable achievement 11 May 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Sprezzatura is a remarkable achievement. D'Epiro's and Pinkowish's tour of two thousand years of Italian history demonstrates the same "effortless mastery" they chronicle in the fascinating men and women who people their book.
The 50 essays are well chosen and cover the whole gamut of Italian genius - in art, in music, in science, in politics, in fashion...you name it. It's an excellent overview of Italy's contributions to world civilization that touches all the main bases. At the same time, it's a collection of self-contained essays, each a pleasure to read and each chock full of unexpected facts and anecdotes - the texture of history, or what I believe Ezra Pound called the "luminous detail."
Bottom line: Sprezzatura is learned and well-written - never dull or pedantic. Sure, the essays aren't all of the same quality. Some are merely very good, while most are superb. For anyone who knows Italy - its people and its history - Sprezzatura is a must. I've lived there, I've studied there, and I love this book. For anyone who doesn't know Italy but wants to, Sprezzatura is a must too. I can think of no better introduction.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Excellent brief summary of 50 interesting individuals 5 Jan. 2002
By Duane - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Exactly the type of book I was looking for: 50 short articles on interesting italians down through history. Each article is 6-7 pages, just enough depth to be interesting without so much detail as to become boring. Lots of different topics like art, architecture, politics, science, and religion. Plus a very fast, light, easy to read writing style. Just the right length to read one article on my lunch break. If I could make one change, I would have paid extra for the addition of some photos and illustrations. Lots of the people covered in the book were painters, sculptors, builders, etc. and as they say 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. Bottom-line: definitely worth the money and the time spent reading.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
50 Ways To Learn Your History! 21 Nov. 2001
By Bruce Loveitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Right away with this book, in chapter one, you know that you are in for a treat. Regarding the Roman calendar, the authors write: "In those days, (circa 700 B.C.) January and February didn't yet exist- at least in the calendar- since Roman farmers didn't have much fieldwork to do in that dead part of the year after the last crops had been harvested and stored. After a two month hiatus, the new year began in March with preparation of the ground for the next season's crop."Did you already know that? Then try this one from the chapter on Julius Caesar: "When he saw Brutus draw his dagger, Caesar covered his head with his purple toga and fell to the floor. 'Kai su teknon,' he said in Greek ('You, too, my child- and not Shakespeare's Latin 'Et tu, Brute?') before being stabbed in the groin by the man whose mother, Servilia, had been his favorite mistress. The dictator died at the base of Pompey's statue, bleeding from twenty-three wounds. Cicero wrote that he had 'feasted his eyes on the just death of a tyrant.'""Kai su teknon".....now that is something I never knew!!I think the above excerpts give you a pretty accurate feel for how the book is written. It is broken up into 50 chapters, each approximately 7 pages or so. You may not be interested in every single chapter, but I only found my mind wandering in 1 or 2. If you're a fairly well-read person you may already be familiar with some of the material, but I guarantee you'll still learn a lot from this book. The authors have done a great job of bringing together a lot of material on very different subjects and turning it into something coherent. And in just 7 pages per topic they have managed to present the essence of something without "dumbing it down". Not an easy thing to do!Let me finish this review by giving you, fittingly, the final paragraph from the wonderful chapter on Michelangelo: "In one of his poems he describes himself as broken in body from his labors and cooped up in his tiny dark house with its thousand spiders and cobwebs and human excrement just outside the entrance. He wonders just what good it has done him to have created so many 'puppets' with his art, which has now left him 'so poor and old, a slave to others' whims,/ that if I die not soon I am undone.'"
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Nothing's irrelevant for the serious student 7 May 2002
By Frank Rella - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is indeed densely packed with details large and small about most of the major and some of the minor characters in the vast tapestry of Italian civilization. But surely not one of them can be irrelevant when the purpose of the volume is considered. We are promised an overview of the facility with which notable Italians, from Caesar to Lampedusa, have left their mark on the wider world of western culture, and that is exactly what the authors have provided. The facility of their prose nicely reflects the sprezzatura of their title. It conveys the numerous nuggets of information, all of which are needed to fill in the historical/biographical panorama, without strain and with clarity and precision. To have provided such an embarrassment of riches about so many diverse individuals, represents a very impressive work of sedulous research. The inclusion of some less celebrated characters, such as Malatesta and Aretino, D'Annunzio and Beccaria, as well as the giants we would expect to find, makes the work rather more interesting than otherwise. The reference to John Adams quoting Beccaria on the law during the Boston Massacre trial, is the kind of detail that one comes upon unexpectedly and relishes. The brief chapter on Italian makers of the violin and piano, and that on pioneer anatomists, are small but precious gems. If one comes to this well-researched and well-written book, looking for accurate detailed cameos of representative Italian genius, one will not be disappointed. It is a collection, not an exegesis, but no less valuable and enjoyable for that. In being such the book follows a noble if eccentric tradition that itself represents one of the accomplishments of the Italian scholar: the compilation of authorities on different topics, that was perhaps the most important vehicle for preserving what was known in academic and legal cirlces throughout the middle ages, and that made possible what we now call the Renaissance.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Richer than any tour book or history, and better written 6 Nov. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You'll want to go to Italy after reading this book. D'Epiro and Pinkowish love this land of innovators, genius, and beauty - and it shows in these meticulously wrought portraits of 50 of its greatest artists, poets, scientists, warriors and saints, described in honest, loving detail.
Here, for example, is Michaelangelo, the ultimate "connoisseur of human beauty":
"...ugly, with his furrowed brow, small eyes, large ears, squashed nose, thin lips, and sparse forked beard. In periods of sustained creation, he subsisted for days only on bread and wine and hardly ever removed his clothes; in old age, he wore dogskin boots for months on end, which, when finally peeled off, took a layer of skin with them. He was a sarcastic and argumentative know-it-all, scornful of inferior talents, surly even with popes. 'Michelangelo is terrible,' Leo X once said, 'one cannot deal with him.' A haunted man who lived only for his art-sometimes working at night by the light of a candle stuck into a cardboard hat--he became very wealthy but lived like a poor man."
The book ranges from the obscenity of Catullus - in idiomatic new translations - to the mystical serenity of Thomas Aquinas; the strangely neurotic da Vinci contrasts with the genial Enrico Fermi; a tour of Dante's hell vividly balances the inquring mind of Emporer Frederick II, who tested the piety of Francis of Assisi with dancing girls. From the vitality of Garibaldi to the despair of Leopardi to the elegance of Armani, something new and strange meets you at every turn. There is no better introduction to 2,500 years of Italian culture, history and civilization than these close-up portraits of Italians in the act doing magnificent, dangerous and difficult things and making it all seem natural, even graceful.
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