Monday, June 25, 2012

NAPLES DECLARED

At the beginning of Naples Declared, readers will find a chronology of Naples’ history, starting with an entry for Circa 1800-1600 B.C. and ending with an entry for 2011. The bulk of the book goes on to explain this chronology in more detail, as it pertains to certain sites and attitudes in Naples. While Benjamin Taylor takes his walk around the bay, he details the ways in which the (sometimes confusing) history of Naples has resulted in its very diverse cultural practices, religious practices, architecture, and artwork.
I learned quite a bit while reading Naples Declared, but I know I would have found it much more interesting and much less confusing if I’d done the extra research the first time around.
It is clear that Taylor loves the city of Naples and put a lot of time and effort into the writing of Naples Declared (sixteen years of research and eleven stays in Naples, to be exact). He does write with passion, and in a clear and concise way. Included at the back of the book is Taylor’s list of sources for the historical information contained in Naples Declared, and I think I’ll be looking into some of those books before I read this one again.

Monday, June 18, 2012

BECOMING NEAPOLITAN


In his New Year’s address for 2012 the British Prime Minister sought to rally a demoralized people saddled with debts, recession, and unemployment in the face of a continuing policy of wholesale transfer of assets from public to private, by reminding them of the forthcoming Olympic Games and the Queen’s Jubilee. There was something redolent of early modern Naples in the promise of bread and circuses, the emphasis on display rather than substance, the insistence on a glorious past and (hastily reinvented) tradition, and the conjuring of the allure and excitement of feasts, festivals and pomp to divert and distract, reassure and unify a divided and potentially disaffected citizen body. John Marino’s book argues that, in the face of the dispossession and exploitation of the poor of Naples, the elites mounted fabulous festivals, parties and celebrations, and threw in their lot with the Spanish against the popolo. Indeed court culture emerges as a monstrous seduction of its elites, narcissistic and self-serving. It feels a familiar story; yet Marino tells it by drawing together a rich variety of sources – visual, artistic, ephemeral, hagiographic, ludic, literary, and legal.