The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone

The Agony and The Ecstasy is the title of the book but for me it has been mostly agony.

The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone is a biographical novel about Michelangelo, the inimitable Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect and engineer. It was published in 1961.

The book includes a list of Michelangelo’s works & their present whereabouts and a glossary. I enjoyed these extra additions.

The book starts from Michelangelo’s adolescent years and ends with his demise. As Michelangelo lived to be 88 years of age the book ends up being extremely long. More than 700 pages long to be precise.

All that would have been fine if the story and the writing were exceptional. But no such luck!

The story is extremely repetitive. Michelangelo has talent, he gets into trouble with powerful people, he is miserable, he builds/makes/paints something incredible and everything is okay until the next difficulty rears its ugly head. It’s basically the same thing happening again and again.

The writing for the most part is amateurish. Stone would rather tell us about things than show us. The dialogues are stilted, unnatural and sometimes almost comical! For example,

“I am a sculptor.”

“Could you carve me in marble?”

“You’re already carved,” he blurted out. “Flawlessly!”

The book is well-researched and for the most part appears to be based on facts. This wealth of information would not have been wasted if only Irving Stone had been a better writer or if any other hand had written this book. What a waste of a good concept!

I would rather recommend reading the Wikipedia article on Michelangelo. It has all the information without the awful and often cringe inducing dialogues and characters. Enough said!