Every now and then a writer comes along and makes you realise – oh jeepers, this is how it should be done. I’m reading Albert and the Whale, by Philip Hoare, at the moment, and it’s slow going because every other page – oh jeepers.
There’s so much to talk about, and this isn’t really the place. Instead, let me tell you about this one thing. Albert and the Whale is a book about Albrecht Dürer, one of those artists I’ve always avoided because their work is so vast and so varied that I wouldn’t even know where to start. Maybe this is where to start, Dürer’s St Jerome of 1494, one of his first paintings. A saint in the wilderness. But don’t worry about that. The picture is small. Turn it over. And on the back?
On the back is what Philip Hoare calls “a galactic event”. A star, “radiating orange-red rays, careering through the perpetual night.” Jerome and then this glimpse of a violent universe, a comet, a meteor, a Newtonian horror.