Forge Books, 2002
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See the Bruegel
Notes document that Rucker worked with while writing As
Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel. If you've read
the book and want more references, or if you want information
about how the writing of the novel, then you'll enjoy this.
Blurbs and Reviews
"A delightful book, one that carries us through the sixteenth-century
picture-plane at extraordinary angles, illuminating Bruegel, his art and
his world, with warmth and candor."
----- William Gibson, author of Pattern
"What possesses a popular science
fiction writer to write a historical novel about a sixteenth-century
Flemish painter enamored of peasant ways? Unbridled fascination with the
depiction of worlds real and imagined. Rucker's keen insights into Peter
Bruegel's spellbinding and politically subversive work underpin this
animated, suspenseful, and affecting tale, a step up from Tracy Chevalier's
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2000). Biographical information about
Bruegel is scant, but Rucker's sense that the painter was lively, compassionate,
courageous, and determined feels right, and the characters Rucker invents
to flesh out Bruegel's violent and precarious universe are equally
compelling, especially the cultured mapmaker Abraham Ortelius, who is so
careful to conceal his homosexuality; the sexy and volatile half-Native
American, Williblad Cheroo, and Bruegel's smart, saucy wife. Just as
Bruegel's paintings are a great joy to behold even as they induce the
viewer to face the grimmer aspects of life, Rucker's vivid imagining of Bruegel's
trials and triumphs is set against a cutting indictment of the horrors of
the Spanish occupation and Inquisition. Bruegel's great gift was his
perception of the sacred in the earthy, and Rucker follows suit in this
vital portrait of a sweet-natured disciple of life's fecund beauty in a
time of cold-blooded tyranny."
----- Book List
"Rucker manages the delicate trick of making
his tale both exotically foreign in time and space yet resonant
with the present day. Much of Rucker's success stems from his
obvious identification with his subject. Given a relative paucity
of solid historical data about Bruegel, Rucker is able to reverse-engineer
the man from his paintings, and the result is a visionary artist
who embodies Rucker's own dichotomous concern with the matters
both of dirty earth and of numinous heaven."
----- Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine
"Pictures at an exhibition, sort of,
as mathematician and SF writer Rucker tells the life of the great Flemish
painter. ... Here we follow Bruegel's story from 1552 to 1569 in sixteen
chapters that organize themselves around sixteen of the master's best-known
paintings ... A lively and well-narrated tale
that will appeal to Bruegel fans and may awaken newcomers to an interest in
----- Kirkus Reviews
"As intricate ... as one of its
subject's own vivid depictions of 16th-century life in the
Spanish-dominated Low Countries, Rucker's fictionalized life of Bruegel
draws its readers into a teeming world of politics, art, love, sin and
loss. ... This is clearly a labor of love and
... it grapples handily with Bruegel's genius --- his ability to wittily
and gracefully recreate all human activity, from the sublime to the scatological."
----- Publisher's Weekly
Rudy Rucker is an author whose writing
thus far has been devoted to nonfiction about science and to genre fiction.
He has won awards and achieved a substantial reputation in those fields.
But he also has a long-standing fascination with the paintings of one of
the great European artists, an interest that has led him to visit museums
around the world and to investigate the facts of the artist's life.
Peter Bruegel's paintings-a peasant wedding in a barn, hunters in the snow,
a rollicking street festival, and many others-have long defined our idea of
everyday life in sixteenth-century Europe. They are classic icons of a time
and place in much the same way as Norman Rockwell's depictions of
twentieth-century America. We know relatively little about Bruegel, but
after years of research, novelist, mathematician, and art lover Rudy Rucker
has taken what is known and imagined for us the life and world of a master
who never got old.
In sixteen chapters, each headed by a reproduction of one of the famous
works, Rucker brings Bruegel's painter's progress and his colorful world to
vibrant life, doing for Bruegel what the bestselling Girl with A Pearl
Earring did for Vermeer. We follow the artist from the winding streets
of Antwerp and Brussels to the glowing skies and decaying monuments of Rome
and back. He and his friends, the cartographer Ortelius and Williblad
Cheroo, an American Indian, are as vivid on the page as the multifarious
denizens of Bruegel's unforgettable canvases.
Here is a world of conflict, change and discovery, a world where Carnival
battles Lent every day, recorded for us forever by the enigmatic and
engaging genius readers will meet in the pages of As Above So Below.