Sure to be hailed alongside H is for Hawk and The Hare with Amber Eyes, an exceptional work that is at once an astonishing journey across countries and continents, an immersive examination of a great artist’s work, and a moving and intimate memoir.
In 2012, facing the death of his father and impending fatherhood, Toby Ferris set off on a seemingly quixotic mission to track down and look at—in situ—every painting still in existence by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the most influential and important artist of Northern Renaissance painting.
The result of that pursuit is a remarkable journey through major European cities and across continents. As Ferris takes a keen analytical eye to the paintings, each piece brings new revelations about Bruegel’s art, and gives way to meditations on mortality, fatherhood, and life. Ferris conjures a whole world to which most of us have probably lost the key, and in the process teaches us how to look, patiently and curiously, at the world.
Short Life in a Strange World is a dazzlingly original and assured debut—a strange and bewitching hybrid of art criticism, philosophical reflection, and poignant memoir. Beautifully illustrated with sixty-six color images, it subtly alters the way we see the world and ourselves.
About the Author
Toby Ferris is the creator of “Anatomy of Norbiton,” a web-based series of essays on suburban life and universal failure, as seen through the lens of the art of the Renaissance. He lives and works in Cambridge. Short Life in a Strange World is his first book. http://anatomyofnorbiton.org/
“Oddly charming, deeply intelligent. . . . Anyone asking questions about their own place in the world might be drawn to these portrayals of ordinary life from almost 500 years ago—scenes of human beings who work and return home, who carry their kids and tend to chores, who nap, play, eat, drink and do other, less decorous things. And, with the author’s help, we look at them more closely than before." — Washington Post
“Graceful, transcendent even.” — Los Angeles Times
“Captivating . . . a vibrant portrait of the artist’s work and world…. A profusely illustrated, deeply thoughtful meditation.” — Kirkus
“Thought-provoking. . . . [Ferris] blends memoir with philosophic meditation on art criticism in his thoughtful debut.” — Publishers Weekly