The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner

Overview

“A searching, sensitive, and engagingly witty meditation.” —Lyndall Gordon
 
“What a great pleasure this gorgeous little book has given me! It should be offered everywhere indeed, and at every museum shop on earth.”—Honor Moore
 
A fascinating meditation on art and personality, Patricia Vigderman’s exploration of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s famous Boston museum radiates out from its subject to investigate Garnder’s legacy of luxury and willfulness.  Isabella Gardner’s high spirits and aesthetic ...

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Overview

“A searching, sensitive, and engagingly witty meditation.” —Lyndall Gordon
 
“What a great pleasure this gorgeous little book has given me! It should be offered everywhere indeed, and at every museum shop on earth.”—Honor Moore
 
A fascinating meditation on art and personality, Patricia Vigderman’s exploration of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s famous Boston museum radiates out from its subject to investigate Garnder’s legacy of luxury and willfulness.  Isabella Gardner’s high spirits and aesthetic pleasure, her women friends and female power, her friendships with the adventurers and aesthetes of her world, are gathered into this engrossing investigation of patronage and passion.  Blending biography, memoir, philosophy, and detective story, The Memory Palace is more than a tribute to the museum and the woman; it is an altogether new genre.  Vigderman’s witty and intimate quest for her subject sets a literary precedent for the appreciation of artistic imagination.  Loosening up the past, entering its mysteries and its memories, she reminds us that we change our lives when we begin a relationship with art.  

Patricia Vigderman grew up in Washington, D.C., and Europe. She graduated from Vassar College, after which a circuitous course led her through editing, translating, freelance journalism, teaching, marriage, motherhood, divorce, a doctoral dissertation (on nineteenth-century novels as film, as history, and as autobiography), and a lot of time in museums. Her recent writing has appeared in The Georgia Review, Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, Northwest Review, Raritan, Seneca Review, and Southwest Review. She divides her year between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Gambier, Ohio, where she teaches in the English department at Kenyon College. She is married to the writer Lewis Hyde.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

First-time author Vigderman uses a combination of biography, art appreciation and personal reflection in an attempt to penetrate the character of the woman responsible for Boston's Gardner Museum, an eclectic collection of art works arranged according to whim in a building designed to look like a 15th-century Venetian palace. Finding previous biographies inadequate, and lacking Mrs. Gardner's personal papers (she burned them shortly before her death in 1924), Vigderman, who teaches in the English department at Kenyon College, ponders the objects in the museum, looking for clues to the Gardner's elusive motivations. When this fails to yield insight into Mrs. Gardner's psyche, Vigderman decides to examine the personalities of Mrs. Gardner's friends— such as Francis Marion Crawford, who may have been the great love of her life; Henry Adams's wife, Clover, a woman of similar social background and unconventional bent; and the men who advised her, such as the art connoisseur Bernard Berenson. These excursions into contemporaneous lives make interesting reading, but they don't shed much light on Mrs. Gardner. Finally, Vigderman is forced to admit that all we can know of Isabella Stewart Gardner is the art she collected and the way we respond to it, a disappointing conclusion to an intriguing but unsatisfying book. Illus. (Feb.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932511437
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 2/1/2007
  • Pages: 152
  • Sales rank: 865,888
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Vigderman grew up in Washington, D.C. and Europe. She graduated from Vassar, after which a circuitous course led her through editing, translating, journalism, teaching, a doctoral dissertation (on nineteenth-century novels as film, as history, and as autobiography), and a lot of time in museums. She divides her year between Cambridge, Massachusetts and Gambier, Ohio, where she teaches.

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