Last spring I visited the Paris exhibition Cranach in His Time, where I was introduced to a sampling of Lucas Cranach Sr.’s diverse and sometimes puzzling range of work. Cranach (1472–1553) produced more than 1,500 paintings, not to mention engravings, decorative work and altarpieces. I began my tour with his portrait of the powerful and shrewd Frederick the Wise, who was Saxon’s ruling elector, Cranach’s patron and Luther’s protector. A little further on I studied a portrait of Luther, Cranach’s friend and partner, painted as a nonthreatening monk—an effort to persuade his critics that he was not dangerous.
On the Shelf
Margaret Farley’s Just Love: A Framework for a Christian Sexual Ethics is at #16 on the current Amazon sales list. When is the last time a sane, scholarly, carefully argued and theologically rich book of sexual ethics ranked that high? I don’t know, but I can’t imagine it was recent. (Four out of the top five on the Amazon list are versions of Fifty Shades of Gray. If only those readers would open up Farley!) To make matters even stranger, the book is six years old and used mostly in seminaries and at religious institutions. The flurry of interest was provoked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Every year, people gather in my hometown for an almost unthinkable challenge. During the Leadville Trail 100, athletes run 100 miles. The race is metaphorically fascinating.
Right now I'm reading In the Garden of Beasts, by master storyteller Erik Larson. It is the captivating story of William E. Dodd, U.S. ambassador to Germany during Hitler's rise to power. Dodd's young adult daughter Martha, a socialite who had affairs with the head of the Gestapo and a Russian spy, steals the show. Next I plan to read Stephen Ozment's sweeping survey A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People.
A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness. I'm a fan of the Twilight series and early Anne Rice. This promises to be a good read in the same vein. For some reason, the title brings to mind a murder of crows.
The Chatelet Apprentice, by Jean-François Parot. I've been re-invigorating my French with the mystery novels of French diplomat Jean-François Parot. (Several titles are available in English.) As police commissioner Nicolas Le Floch works to solves crimes in 18th-century Paris, author Parot expands the plot with descriptions of the era's culture, political intrigues and haute cuisine.