Friday, April 4, 2008

Charles Dent's Fabulous Horse

Poor Allentown!  Imagine living in a city that's best known for being the subject of a Billy Joel song.  The place just can't catch a break.

Yet it's a quirky and interesting city.  Marianne and I went there last Saturday to see the National Geographic exhibition of illustrative art.  It was a terrific show, and if I ever find the time I may well write a long essay about it.  The museum was, of course, almost empty, despite the fact that the Frank Lloyd Wright library room -- reassembled inside the museum with the original furniture -- is all by itself worth the visit.

What impressed me most, however,  was discovering that in the park across the street from the museum is a twelve-foot-tall miniature of Charles Dent's Horse.  

In 1977, Allentown native Charles Dent read about Leonardo Da Vinci's unfinished statue (begun but melted down for cannons before it could be completed) of a colossal horse and decied that the project needed to be finished.  Seeing a need that nobody else in the world did, Dent raised money, researched the statue, hired sculptor Nina Akuma, and after decades of single-minded obsession, got the statue made, though he did not live to see it completed.

On September 10, 1999, more than five hundred years after Leonardo first proposed it, the twenty-four-foot-high Horse was unveiled in Milan.  A second casting, known as the American Horse is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and an 8-foot replica was placed in Leonardo's home town of Vinci, Italy.

There's something to be said for a city that breeds eccentrics like that.

And just to be self-serving . . .

Let me point out that John Clute loves The Dragons of Babel.  In his Strange Horizons review, he calls it "pure magic."

And so does Arthur Bangs!  In his SFFWORLD review, he writes that it "plays with the conventions of the tradition to simultaneously satisfy and confound the reader's expectations, making for a delightful read even when one knows how it will end -- or at least when one thinks one knows how it will end."

I realize how full of myself posting these links here makes me seem.  But when you get reviews that good, you really ought to revel in them.


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