Friday, December 03, 2004

Headlong by Michael Frayn

Last year I picked up Michael Frayn's novel Headlong in the National Gallery bookshop. It's not historical fiction but it's full of art historical detail. Like all the books I mention here I would recommend it to anyone. The central character is:

Martin Clay, a philosophy lecturer on sabbatical, diligently avoiding work on the book he is supposed to be writing on nominalism, and he is convinced that his disorderly neighbour in the country has, but doesn't know he has, a lost Bruegel among the mountains of family junk in his rotting ancestral pile. The trick is to remove the painting from its owner without letting him know what he's got, and this is how Martin thinks he will do it. It's a piece of accelerated delusion. Groucho would have been proud of him. (Continue reading Michael Wood's review here)

If memory serves me rightly it's a good novel for people who're a bit shy of art. A lot of us are convinced that we don't know how to talk about it or that there's some clever mystery in there that's eluding us. Martin Clay's attitude to the supposed Bruegel shows you what people see in paintings and that we can see it too. Do you know what I mean? You can find the novel here on Amazon and read more about Bruegel here.


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