A Walk Around the Bay
It is a city of seemingly irreconcilable opposites, simultaneously glorious and ghastly. And it is Ben Taylor’s remarkable ability to meld these contradictions into a whole that makes this the exciting and original book it is. He takes his stroll around the bay with the acute sensitivity of a lover, the good humor of a friend, and the wisdom of a seeker who has immersed himself in all aspects of this contrapuntal culture. His curiosity leads him to many byways, both real and metaphoric, and his passion for this ancient city and its people becomes, in his graceful prose and amusing anecdotes, irresistibly contagious
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“Splendid.” - Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra: A Life
There is no more witty, worldly, cultivated or amiably candid observer imaginable than Benjamin Taylor. This book belongs on the shelf of the very best literary travel guides.
Erudite and charming, Naples Declared is remarkable book; it's about place and history and survival; it's fresh, it's wise, and it's not to be missed.
-Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson
“From novelist/essayist/editor Taylor, an idiosyncratic, atmospheric portrait of ‘the great open-air theater of Europe.’ The author wears his formidable erudition lightly as he cites classical authors and 20th-century travel writers with equal zest and acuity. Yet some of his most enjoyable pages are present-day encounters with a fervently communist doctor, with a chain-smoking student of Faulkner, and with novelist Shirley Hazzard, one of Naples many devoted longtime, part-time residents. Packed with elegant apercus and vibrant with the author’s rueful understanding that ‘Naples the glorious and Naples the ghastly have always been one place,” [in his] highly personal book the Neapolitan spirit is palpable.”—Kirkus starred review
“Taylor’s book, like his subject, Naples, is a lot of things at once; there are lengthy discussions of history, philosophy, religion, art, culture, literature, customs. The book meanders between past and present, wanders in stream-of-thought fashion through the Naples streets, delves deeply into the city’s stories, lives, and lore, and drops in for conversations with locals; it is an accurate representation of what travel is and what it means. Scholarly and insightful and balanced with wit and levity, [Naples Declared] is written with an effortless poeticism.”—Library Journal
"Superb . . . What Chatwin did for Australia and Mathiessen for the Himalayas, Taylor now does for the storied city of Naples. I will steal a line from Leon Wieseltier's review of Taylor's previous book, "Saul Bellow: Letters" to describe his newest one: "an elegantissimo book." [In Naples Declared,] Taylor deftly sums up more than 3,000 years of history, ranging from the establishment of a Mycenaean entrepôt in 1800 B.C.E. to the signal event of 2011: “Renewed garbage crisis.” Like all great travel memoirs, however, “Naples Declared” owes some of its best moments to the firsthand experiences of the author in the place he writes about. He is a watchful traveler and a charming raconteur, and so we are treated to accounts of his successful effort to cure the hiccups of an aristocratic Englishwoman known to the hotel staff as “Lady So-and-So,” his inventory of the cast-off items and the poignant graffiti that he spots in an ancient aqueduct used as a bomb-shelter during World War II . . . Taylor’s book offers a full measure of history and reportage. “My modus operandi,” he explains, “has been to walk a knowledge of Naples into my bloodstream.” But the book is also a reverie. “In this place, my dream said, trust to the promise of renewable wonder,” he concludes, “every lover’s hope and prayer.” There is no better way to sum up what Taylor has captured in “Naples Declared,” a wholly delightful example of what the literary travel memoir can achieve."--Jonathan Kirsch, JewishJournal.com
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