I read this book in an effort to give myself a crash course in the histories of some cities I will be visiting this spring. Thematically, this was a perfect book to begin with because we will be visiting Vienna first, and chronologically, the events of 1888-1889 described set in motion a chain of events that would ripple through the Balkan states, and the rest of Europe. We will be visiting Croatia after Vienna, and then Greece, so in a way, we'll be following that ripple effect across Europe.
The author, Frederic Morton, does an excellent job of creating brief but incisive anecdotal snapshots of the strata of Viennese society, from high to low, and the many people, some destined for greatness and infamy, who strolled the Ringstrasse during that fateful year. It is remarkable how many geniuses--thinkers, writers, composers, playwrights--lived in the city at that time: Freud, Mahler, Brahms, Strauss, Klimt, Herzl, Schnitzler, etc. Towards the end of the book, a great scandal occurs involving the liberal Crown Prince Rudolf and his teenaged mistress, and even though Morton sometimes overreaches in connecting this event to everything that would follow in modern life, in many ways he does have a point about rising nationalism, hysteria, and other afflictions of the "modern" era that dog us even now.
Content-wise, this is all very enjoyable and informative, but I feel I must issue a warning about the author's rather florid and repetitive writing stye. His wording is as rococo and baroque as the lavish imperial buildings of the city he describes. It's sort of like Cogsworth (oh, he of Beauty & the Beast fame) narrating an entire novel. If you can handle that, then Nervous Splendor is definitely worth a read.
Now on to the beginning of Black Lamb, Grey Falcon!
I am a writer of fiction and essays with an abiding interest in literature by and about women. My work has been nominated for inclusion in the Best New American Voices anthology, a Pushcart Prize, a four-time finalist in the FENCE/Summer Literary Seminars annual contest, and has been featured in Quick Fiction, City Arts Magazine, Hoarse Quarterly, Pacifica Literary Review, District, & Wigleaf. In August, I left Seattle for Wyoming with the goal of finishing my novel. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.