Secret Dead By S.J.Parris

I enjoy reading historical fiction by authors such as as Robert Harris, Conn Iggulden, S.J Parris and C.J.Sansom and Having read and enjoyed the exciting Tudor murder Mysteries “Heresy” and “Prophecy” I would like to read “The Secret Dead” by S.J.Parris. This is A short story featuring Giordano Bruno: heretic, philosopher and spy. It starts in Naples, 1566 During a sweltering summer and features eighteen-year-old Giordano Bruno who is taking his final vows at San Domenico Maggiore after being admitted to the Dominican Order – despite having doubts over his tendency to ask difficult questions.

On one occasion whilst Assisting in the infirmary, Bruno witnesses an illicit autopsy being performed on the body of a young woman. Her corpse reveals a dark secret, and Bruno suspects that it may not have been an accidental death. So he investigates and Sure enough his investigation leads him to a powerful figure who wants to keep the truth buried at all costs, and Bruno find himself forced to make a choice between his future in the Order, and justice for an innocent victim and her grieving family…

The Fault in our Stars

I have also recently watched the poignant tearjerker Fault in our Stars. It concerns Hazel Grace Lancaster a teenager living in Indianapolis, who has terminal thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. Believing she is depressed, her mother Frannie urges her to attend a weekly cancer patient support group to help her make friends with individuals who are going through the same thing. There Hazel meets Augustus Waters, a charming teenager who lost a leg from bone cancer but has since apparently been cancer-free. He invites Hazel to his house where they bond over their hobbies and agree to read each other’s favorite book. Hazel recommends An Imperial Affliction, a novel about a cancer-stricken girl named Anna that parallels her experience, and Augustus gives Hazel Counter Insurgence. They keep in touch via text over the weeks that follow and grow closer. After Augustus finishes the book, he expresses frustration with its abrupt ending (it ends in the middle of a sentence). Hazel explains that the novel’s mysterious author, Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), retreated to Amsterdam following the novel’s publication and has not been heard from since.

Augustus traces Van Houten’s assistant, Lidewij, and corresponds with Van Houten by email. She writes to him to find out more about the novel’s ambiguous ending. Van Houten replies that he is only willing to answer her questions in person. Hazel asks her mother if she can travel to Amsterdam to visit him, but Frannie refuses because of financial and medical constraints. Augustus suggests that she use the “cancer wish” she received from Make-A-Wish Foundation but Hazel explains that she has already used hers to visit Disney World. Augustus and Hazel go on a picnic date and begin to fall in love. Augustus surprises Hazel with tickets to Amsterdam. After a medical setback, Hazel’s doctors eventually agree to allow the trip, since they expect that she will soon become incapable of doing anything at all.

Hazel and Augustus arrive in Amsterdam and are presented with reservations at an expensive restaurant, pre-paid by Van Houten. During the meal, Augustus confesses his love for Hazel. The following afternoon, they go to Van Houten’s house, but are shocked to find he is a mean-spirited alcoholic. Lidewij arranged the meeting and their dinner without Van Houten knowing anything about it. However this does not go to plan.

Unfortunately After returning to Indianapolis Augustus cancer becomes terminal. Hazel is heartbroken, expressing how unfair life can be. Augustus’ health worsens and He is taken to the ICU where he realizes he is close to death. So he invites his blind best friend Isaac and Hazel to his pre-funeral, where they deliver eulogies that they have both prepared. Hazel tells him she would not trade their short time together for anything, since he “gave me a forever within the numbered days.” Augustus tragically dies and Hazel is astonished to find Van Houten at Augustus funeral hoping to make amends and he explains about his tragic past….

Thinner by Stephen King

I have recently watched Thinner, the film adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. It concerns an obese, upper-class lawyer named Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke) who lives with his wife Heidi (Lucinda Jenney) and their daughter Linda (Bethany Joy Lenz). Billy is asked to defend an underworld crime boss named Richie “The Hammer” Ginelli (Joe Mantegna) in court against a murder charge. Elsewhere his local town is hosting a carnival, run by gypsies.

One night, while Billy is driving he accidentally runs over Suzanne Lempke (Irma St. Paule), an elderly gypsy woman, as she leaves a local pharmacy. However Since Judge Cary Rossington (John Horton) is a personal friend of his, the Reckless driving and Manslaughter charges against him are quietly dropped. Outraged by the injustice, Suzanne’s 106-year-old father, Tadzu Lempke (Michael Constantine) curses Billy by touching his face and saying the word “thinner”. Billy begins to lose weight rapidly, despite him not working out or sticking to his diet. Tadzu Lempke also curses Judge Cary and Police Chief Duncan Hopely (Daniel von Bargen), who helped him avoid punishment in court. Cary, whose curse was “Lizard”, is now growing scales all over his body. Chief Duncan, whose curse was “Leper” becomes mutated with large boils.

Heidi, fearing the weight loss may be due to cancer, brings in Dr. Mike Houston (Sam Freed), with whom Billy soon begins to suspect his wife is having an affair. Meanwhile Billy inexplicably continues losing weight despite eating vast amounts and calculates that he only has a few weeks to live. He begins eating even more compulsively. Billy looks for the gypsy carnival, to get Lempke to remove the curse, but they have gone.

Billy becomes convinced that Heidi is having an affair with Doctor Houston and blames her for the accident. He finds the gypsy camp and tries to reason with Lempke, but instead angers him into increasing the curse’s effects. Galina, Lempke’s great-granddaughter (Kari Wuhrer), uses her slingshot to shoot a large ball bearing which goes directly through Billy’s hand, infuriating Billy into vowing revenge against Lempke and his gypsies. Billy then enlists Richie Ginelli’s help. Richie pays Frank Spurton (Josh Holland), a local mobster, to go down to spy and report the gypsy camp. Ritchie then kills their dogs, and leaves a message demanding Billy’s curse be removed. In retaliation, Galina and her husband Gabe kill Frank–insisting the curse will never be lifted. So Richie seeks revenge and Gabe is accidentally shot and killed. Richie then kidnaps Galina and threatens to kill her unless the curse is not removed

Lempke later finds Billy emaciated and near death. To prevent further attacks on his people (especially his grand-daughter), he finally agrees to lift the curse. Lempke explains that the curse cannot be removed, only transferred to another person. Chanting a spell, he mixes Billy’s blood into a strawberry pie. Lempke states that after being consumed by an unsuspecting person, the pie causes painful but rapid death, and the curse will be lifted. So Billy comes up with a plan concerning his disloyal wife Heidi and Doctor Houston, unfortunately though, matters are complicated when Linda unexpectedly shows up

Gustave Doré

French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor Paul Gustave Doré sadly died on January 23, 1883. He was born January 6, 1832 in Strasbourg and his first illustrated story was published at the age of fifteen. His talent was evident even earlier, however. At age five he had been a prodigy troublemaker, playing pranks that were mature beyond his years. Seven years later, he began carving in cement. Subsequently, as a young man, he began work as a literary illustrator in Paris, winning commissions to depict scenes from books by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton and Dante.In 1853, Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated English Bible. In 1856 he produced twelve folio-size illustrations of The Legend of The Wandering Jew for a short poem which Pierre-Jean de Ranger had derived from a novel of Eugène Sue of 1845. In the 1860s he illustrated a French edition of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and his depictions of the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors’ ideas of the physical “look” of the two characters.

Doré also illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper & Brothers in 1883.Doré’s illustrations for the English Bible (1866) were a great success, and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London. This exhibition led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in Bond Street, London. In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold, the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. Jerrold had obtained the idea from The Microcosm of London produced by Rudolph Ackermann, William Pyne, and Thomas Rowlandson in 1808. Doré signed a five-year contract with the publishers Grant & Co that involved his staying in London for three months a year, and he received the vast sum of £10,000 a year for the project. Doré was mainly celebrated for his paintings in his day. His paintings remain world renowned, but his woodcuts and engravings, like those he did for Jerrold, are where he really excelled as an artist with an individual vision.

The completed book, London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 engravings, was published in 1872. It enjoyed commercial and socio-economical success, but the work was disliked by many contemporary critics. Some of these critics were concerned with the fact that Doré appeared to focus on the poverty that existed in parts of London. Doré was accused by the Art Journal of “inventing rather than copying.” The Westminster Review claimed that “Doré gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down.” The book was a financial success, however, and Doré received commissions from other British publishers. Doré’s later work included illustrations for new editions of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King, The Works of Thomas Hood, and The Divine Comedy. Doré’s work also appeared in the weekly newspaper The Illustrated London News.Doré continued to illustrate books until his death in Paris following a short illness. The city’s Père Lachaise Cemetery contains his grave.

Edvard Munch

Norwiegian painter and printmaker Edvard Munch sadly passed away 23 January 1944. Born 12 December 1863 in Ådalsbruk in Løten. He inherited his artistic talent from his mother and was related to painter Jacob Munch (1776–1839) and historian Peter Andreas Munch (1810–1863). Often ill for much of the winters and kept out of school, Edvard would draw to keep himself occupied, and received tutoring from his school mates and his aunt. Christian Munch also instructed his son in history and literature, and entertained the children with vivid ghost-stories and tales of Edgar Allan Poe. The oppressive religious upbringing by his Father, plus Edvard’s poor health and the vivid ghost stories, helped inspire macabre visions and nightmares in Edvard, who felt death constantly advancing on him. Munch would later write, “I inherited two of mankind’s most frightful enemies—the heritage of consumption and insanity.” By his teens, art dominated Munch’s interests. At thirteen, Munch had his first exposure to other artists at the newly formed Art Association, where he admired the work of the Norwegian landscape school. He returned to copy the paintings, and soon he began to paint in oils.

In 1879, Munch enrolled in a technical college to study engineering, where he excelled in physics, chemistry, and math. He learned scaled and perspective drawing, but frequent illnesses interrupted his studies. The following year, much to his father’s disappointment, Munch left the college determined to become a painter. His father viewed art as an “unholy trade”.In 1881, Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design of Christiania. Munch demonstrated his quick absorption of his figure training at the Academy in his first portraits, including one of his father and his first self-portrait. In 1883, Munch took part in his first public exhibition and shared a studio with other students. During these early years in his career, Munch experimented with many styles, including Naturalism and Impressionism. Some early works are reminiscent of Manet, and he continued to employ a variety of brushstroke technique and color palettes throughout the 1880s and early 1890s, as he struggled to define his style. His idiom continued to veer between naturalistic, as seen in Portrait of Hans Jæger, and impressionistic, as in Rue Lafayette. He began to carefully calculate his compositions to create tension and emotion. While stylistically influenced by the Post-Impressionists, what evolved was a subject matter which was symbolist in content, depicting a state of mind rather than an external reality.

In 1889, Munch presented his first one-man show of nearly all his works to date. The recognition it received led to a two-year state scholarship to study in Paris. His picture, Morning (1884), was displayed at the Norwegian pavilion.He spent his mornings in the studio (which included live female models) and afternoons at the exhibition, galleries, and museums. Munch was enthralled by the vast display of modern European art, including the works of three artists who would prove influential: Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He was particularly inspired by Gauguin’s “reaction against realism” and his credo that “art was human work and not an imitation of Nature”.By 1892, Munch formulated his characteristic, and original, Synthetist aesthetic, as seen in Melancholy (1891).In Berlin, Munch involved himself in an international circle of writers, artists and critics. During his four years in Berlin, Munch sketched out most of the ideas that would comprise his major work, including The Frieze of Life, His other paintings, including casino scenes, Ashes, Death in a Sick Room and The Scream which is one of his best known works and was painted in 1893,& has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. Painted with broad bands of garish color and highly simplified forms, and employing a high viewpoint, the agonized figure is reduced to a garbed skull in the throes of an emotional crisis. It is one of only a few paintings, among them “Whistler’s Mother, Wood’s American Gothic and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, whose impact is immediate & meaning can be seen straight away.

In December 1893, Unter den Linden in Berlin held an exhibition of Munch’s work, showing, among other pieces, six paintings entitled Study for a Series: Love. This began a cycle he later called the Frieze of Life – A Poem about Life, Love and Death. In 1896, Munch moved to Paris, where he focused on graphic representations of his “Frieze of Life” themes. He further developed his woodcut and lithographic technique. Munch’s Self-Portrait With Skeleton Arm. Munch also produced a multi-colored versions of “The Sick Child” as well as several nudes and multiple versions of Kiss. Munch returned to Christiania in 1897 and painted landscapes and his final painting in “The Frieze of Life” series, The Dance of Life . In 1900 he returned to Berlin, where he painted Girls on the Jetty to demonstrate the theme of feminine youth without negative connotations. In 1902, he displayed his works thematically at the hall of the Berlin Succession, producing “a symphonic effect”. Despite his success Munch’s self-destructive and erratic behavior continued, and after he got involved in an accidental shooting, his wife left him, this affected him deeply & he chanelled his bitterness into the paintings Still Life (The Murderess) and The Death of Marat I.

In 1903-4, Munch exhibited in Paris where the coming Fauvists, famous for their boldly false colors, likely saw his works and might have found inspiration in them. When the Fauves held their own exhibit in 1906, Munch was invited and displayed his works with theirs.During this time, Munch received many commissions for portraits and prints which improved his usually precarious financial condition. After an earlier period of landscapes, in 1907 he turned his attention again to human figures and situations. However, in the autumn of 1908, Munch’s anxiety, compounded by excessive drinking and brawling, had become acute. Subject to hallucinations and feelings of persecution, he entered the clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson where he received therapy for the next eight months Munch’s stay in hospital stabilized his personality, and after returning to Norway in 1909, his work became more colorful and less pessimistic. Further brightening his mood museums began to purchase his paintings and he was made a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olav “for services in art”. His first American exhibit was in 1912 in New York & produced several full-length portraits of high quality of friends and patrons & also created landscapes and scenes of people at work and play, using a new optimistic style—broad, loose brushstrokes of vibrant color with frequent use of white space and rare use of black.

Munch spent most of his last two decades in solitude at his nearly self-sufficient estate in Ekely, at Skøyen, Oslo. Many of his later paintings celebrate farm life. Munch also continued to paint unsparing self-portraits, unflinching series of snapshots of his emotional and physical states. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis labeled Munch’s work “degenerate art” (along with Picasso, Paul Klee, Matisse, Gauguin and many other modern artists) and removed his 82 works from German museums.In 1940, the Germans invaded Norway and the Nazi party took over the government. Munch was seventy-six years old. With nearly an entire collection of his art in the second floor of his house, Munch lived in fear of a Nazi confiscation. Seventy-one of the paintings previously taken by the Nazis had found their way back to Norway through purchase by collectors (the other eleven were never recovered), including The Scream and The Sick Child, and they too were hidden from the Nazis. Munch died in his house at Ekely near Oslo on 23 January 1944, about a month after his 80th birthday. When Munch died, his remaining works were bequeathed to the city of Oslo, which built the Munch Museum at Tøyen which hosts a collection of approximately 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings, and 18,000 prints, the broadest collection of his works in the world

Manet

French painter Édouard Manet was born 23 January 1832 at his ancestral hôtel particulier (mansion) on the rue Bonaparte.His father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge who expected Édouard to pursue a career in law. However His uncle, Edmond Fournier, encouraged him to pursue painting and took young Manet to the Louvre.In 1841 he enrolled at secondary school, the Collège Rollin and in 1845, he enrolled in a special course of drawing where he met Antonin Proust, future Minister of Fine Arts and subsequent lifelong friend.in 1848 he sailed on a training vessel to Rio de Janeiro, but twice failed the examination to join the Navy. Instead From 1850 to 1856, Manet studied under the academic painter Thomas Couture. In his spare time, Manet copied the old masters in the Louvre and From 1853 to 1856, visited Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, and was influenced by the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artists Diego Velázquez and Francisco José de Goya.

In 1856, Manet opened a studio Where he painted The Absinthe Drinker (1858–59), beggars, singers, Gypsies, people in cafés, and bullfights. he rarely painted religious, mythological, or historical subjects; apart from Christ Mocked, now in the Art Institute of Chicago, and Christ with Angels, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Manet had a portrait of his Mother and Father and The Spanish Singer, displayed at the Salon in 1861. In 1862 he painted Music in the Tuileries, and in 1863 he painted The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) which was exhibited at Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Rejected) and also painted Olympia, both of which caused great controversy. In 1868 he painted Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets and also became friends with impressionists Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro, Morisot also became his sister-in-law when she married his brother, Eugene in 1874. Unfortunately Manet was excluded from the International Exhibition of 1867 at the Paris Salon, so he set up his own exhibition.

In 1879 he painted a self portrait and became influenced by the Impressionists, especially Monet and Morisot and also painted two portraits of the composer Emanuel Chabrier. Among Manet’s fans were Émile Zola, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Charles Baudelaire. In 1878 he painted The Cafe Concert, which was set in the Cabaret de Reichshoffen on the Boulevard Rochechouart, and went on to paint many other cafe scenes depicting the Bohemian social life in 19th-century Paris in which people were depicted drinking beer, listening to music, flirting, reading, or waiting. Manet also visited Pere Lathuilles a restaurant on the Avenue de Clichy and painted Chez le père Lathuille (At Pere Lathuille’s). In 1873 he painted Le Bon Bock and in 1864 he painted The Races at Longchamps and Masked Ball at the Opera and his 1868 painting The Luncheon was painted in Manet’s Dining Room.

Manet also painted War subjects including View of the International Exhibition, and the Battle of the Kearsarge and Alabama (1864), the Battle of Cherbourg (1864) and The Barricade. The French intervention in Mexico also interested him and he Painted The Execution of Emperor Maximilian, 1867, an action which raised concerns regarding French foreign and domestic policy and is currently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In January 1871, Manet traveled to Oloron-Sainte-Marie in the Pyrenees and his friends added his name to the “Fédération des artistes” of the Paris Commune. In 1973 He painted The Railway, widely known as The Gare Saint-Lazare, and In 1874 painted several boating subjects which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, His last major work, was A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère), and In 1875, he provided Lithographs for a book-length French edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. Then in 1881,the French government awarded Manet the Légion d’honneur two years before Manet sadly passed away on 30 April 1883.