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  • Writer's pictureGaili Schoen

All The Beauty In The World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me

"Sometimes, life can be about simplicity and stillness in the vein of a watchful guard amid shimmering works of art. But it is also about the head-down work of living and struggling and growing and creating."

I just finished this wonderful memoir that left me breathless and deeply affected. It's about a simple but highly sensitive midwestern man named Patrick Bringley who loves "great books and great art." Bringley grew up near Chicago, but he fell in love with the Metropolitan Museum of Art when his mother, who had been an art history minor in college, brought him at age 11. After finishing college in New York, Patrick obtaines a glamorous office job at New Yorker magazine. But when his older brother gets sick and dies of cancer, Bringley becomes a Met museum guard:

"I applied for the most straight-forward job I could think of in the most beautiful place I knew....My heart is full, my heart is breaking, and I badly want to stand still awhile."

Bringley works as a guard for ten years, gazing at, learning about and deepening his love for the art in the 2 million square foot building. His philosophical musings on life, art and human nature are insightful and entertaining. He has terms for various kinds of patrons:

"I see the galloping Sightseer, camera at the ready; the awestruck Art Lover, uncertain where to begin; the bewildered First Timer, excited to see the dinosaurs or the Constitution or she doesn't know what exactly but hopefully a friendly guard can help her out."

Bringley illuminates some of his favorite art pieces with historical background and fascinating insider intel, and gives advice to visitors:

"Come in the morning if you can, when the museum is quietest....Look at artworks with wide, patient, receptive eyes, and give yourself time to discover their details as well as their overall presence....The Met is a place can see what fellow fallible humans have made of the world that you live in....Find out what you love in the Met, what you learn from...and venture back into the world carrying something with you...that weighs on you as you go forward and changes you a little bit."

This is a book I will read again and again, to remind me of the power of beauty and human creativity, and to enrich my visit to any museum. Bringley is a talented, engaging writer, and I hope he will continue to write about art and life! Highly recommended.

Hardcover 240 pages, Audiobook (narrated by the author) 6 hours.

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