Monday, March 1, 2010

The Search for the Codex Cardona

It seems that if I get a book for free, I feel that I must read it, even if, generally speaking, it is low on the list of priorities.

I got this book from Duke UP in a Twitter contest of sorts (yes, that's right), and so I read it. I don't have time for a full review, and I'm not the right person to write one, in any case. Bauer, a professor at UC Davis, describes a sixteenth-century Mexican painted book of dubious provenance and his attempts to track it down. As the sensational title suggests, although it's a true account of something basically nerdy, it's framed as a mystery-adventure. I kept wanting the book to be either more academic or more committed to its own paranoia (in my mind there is a difference); the book made repeated stylistic nods to Umberto Eco but not, I felt, terribly successfully. I think I would have been more surprised by the cloak-and-dagger business if I hadn't been made to expect Foucault's Pendulum. I found the generic hybrid interesting, and the actual codex sounds fascinating, but I think in the end I'd have preferred to read an academic article on it. The plates from the codex at the back of the book were perhaps the best part.

Arnold J. Bauer, The Search for the Codex Cardona: On the Trail of a Sixteenth-Century Mexican Treasure. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. Print.

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