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The Genial Guide; more ambitious than he seems.
on 5 April 2013
Stanford is a writer I know as a Catholic, so I wondered at the way this might affect his writing on graveyards: to the good, is my answer ,for as a writer he is a determinedly ecumenical, as likely to be moved by and praise the nonCatholic/attolica cemetery in Rome as I learned here as he is Catholic ones. I thought it was called the Protestant Cemetery and it isn't - useful to know. (Gramsci is here, for starters; so are Shelley's ashes; so is Goethe's son, noting him as such but not giving his name, making the great German seem a little less likeable). Stanford is well informed but doesn't overload you with information; he will help you to enjoy the few graveyards he concentrates on and extend the 'reading' to others. This is not, though, a How to Read A Graveyard, as in decoding or dumbed down iconography. It has things to say on such, but it is primarily an expansion of the clever opening symbol that is the introduction: him becoming acquainted with the local graveyard in walking his dog in one of the few remaining areas of greenery in the Big City. He grows to like it, know it and wants to 'share' it. So, the book is his small, daily journey writ large, with him leading us on a larger journey, actual and symbolic. He walks around some favourites and your taste will develop, wanting to know more. As his did
He seems a nice man, a good companion, commendably moved by what he finds and this is a clever, elegant little book. 'Reading' a graveyard? Well not quite...ironically it is better than a sort of simple key. It is a rather deeper trip than that.