The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed are wonderfully vivid and perceptive descriptions of two great Italian cities, told through their history and art, revealing Mary McCarthy to be one of literature's greatest travelling companions.
Here she depicts Florence through its tempestuous past, from the reign of the Medicis to Savonarola's bonfire of the vanities. Her account is dominated by the splendours of the Renaissance - the statues of Michelangelo and Donatello, the architecture of Brunelleschi, the paintings of Giotto and Botticelli - but she also shows Florence as a living city with a bustling street pageant of sounds and smells. A 'gold idol with clay feet', McCarthy's Venice is a city of illusion and spectacle, carnival and commerce, entrancing visitors with its grandeur and richness, its reflection glittering in the waters of the Adriatic.
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Mary McCarthy was an American literary critic and author of more than two dozen books. Her debut novel, The Company She Keeps, initiated her ascent to become one of the most celebrated writers of her generation, a reputation bolstered by her controversial 1963 New York Times bestseller The Group, which was banned in Australia for its frank portrayal of female sexuality. McCarthy was married four times, including to the critic Edmund Wilson. She died in 1989.
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