I am writing to you now to suggest some books and films you may enjoy reading and watching over the holidays. You may find the stories good background for the City course that you are enrolled this fall. These all relate to one or more of the themes of the course. They are not required, rather, they are stories that you can read or watch on a lazy winter evening …


On Renaissance Florence, try Boccacio, Decameron. It describes how a group of Florentines left the city during the Black Death and amused themselves by telling clever stories. The first tale 'Under the rule of Pampinea' / Day One [of ten days, and the specific story is Day One, number 10 in most editions]. Master Alberto of Bologna neatly turns the tables on a lady who was intent upon making him blush for being in love with her. It is a delicious comedy with a clever twist. But there are also other films: Rosselini's The Age of the Medici, a 'docu-drama'. It used to be available on You Tube, but it appears to have been taken down. If anyone knows where it is to be found let me know.


Netflix has the series: Medici: Masters of Florence, but I have not yet watched it.

and Charleston Heston's version of Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstacy, is available on Netflix

On Vienna, there are two recent films:

Bride of the Wind, about Alma Mahler the wife to the composer and mistress of many of the men whom we will encounter in the books on Vienna and Berlin. Roger Egbert gives it a terrible review, but even bad movies may be useful for our purposes:


More uplifting, is the recent film with Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold about Gustav Klimt and the famous painting now owned by the Neue Gallerie in NY. The price paid for the painting was the highest recorded. Here is a link to brief description.



On Berlin in the 20th Cent., try Christopher Isherwood, Berlin Stories. The narrator visits the 'high' and 'low' life of Berlin between the world wars, and the stories about his least favorite dinner 'lung soup' --yes indeed, soup made from lungs, is mordantly humorous. The movie, "Cabaret" was based on these stories and captures some, but not all of the themes. The stories appeared first the New Yorker magazine, one episode of which was made into a popular Broadway play, 'I am a Camera' during the 1950s, and then into the movie, 'Cabaret' which you may have already seen. If you have not seen Cabaret before this is a good chance to watch it.