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Depictions of Conservators



Several days ago Jon Farley asked about stereotypes of conservators.  This
isn't a stereotype, but folks may be interested in Robert Hellenga's novel
The Sixteen Pleasures (Soho Press, NYC, 1994).  The flap copy describes it thus:

        "Mud angels" is what the Italians call the selfless young foreigners
        who come to Florence in 1966 to save the city's priceless art from
        the Arno's flooded riverbanks.

        Margot Harrington is an American volunteer, an expert at book
        conservancy.  While struggling to save a waterlogged convent library,
        she discovers a fabulous volume of sixteen erotic drawings by Giulio
        Romano that accompany sixteen steamy sonnets by Pietro Aretino.  When
        published more than four centuries earlier, the Vatican had insisted
        all copies be destroyed.  This one--now unique--volume has survived.

        The abbess, with wonderful aplomb, prevails upon Margot to save the
        order's finances by selling the magnificently illustrated erotica,
        discreetly.  Meaning: without the bishop's knowledge.

        The young American's other clandestine project is a middle-aged
        Italian who is boldly trying radical measures to save endangered
        frescoes.  She is 29 and available; he, older and married.  He shares
        her sense of mission and then her bed in this ambrosial story of
        spiritual longing and earthly desire.

The novel comes complete with glowing blurbs from Maxine Kumin, John Casey,
Tillie Olsen, and Gail Godwin.  I recently heard the author read from this
work, was taken by both (him and it), and checked a copy out of the library.
Eighty pages on, I'm enjoying the novel.

Y'all can tell me whether the depictions of conservators are on the money or no.
John Lansingh Bennett                   jlb@prairienet.org
Coffee Break Studio                     jbennett@lakeland.cc.il.us
611 South Lynn                          217.234.5312 (work)
Champaign, IL  61820  USA               800.252.4121 (within Illinois)

                        dolce far niente


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