Book Rec: All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Bringley
A mother at the American wing fountain hands her child two coins, “one wish for yourself,” she says, “and another just as big for someone else."
Millions of people climb the grand marble staircase to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art every year. But only a select few have unrestricted access to every nook and cranny. They’re the guards who roam unobtrusively in dark blue suits, keeping a watchful eye on the two-million-square-foot treasure house. Caught up in his glamorous fledgling career at The New Yorker, Patrick Bringley never thought he’d be one of them. Then his older brother was diagnosed with fatal cancer, and he found himself needing to escape the mundane clamor of daily life. So he quit The New Yorker and sought solace in the most beautiful place he knew.
To his surprise and the listener's delight, this temporary refuge becomes Bringley’s home away from home for a decade. We follow him as he guards delicate treasures from Egypt to Rome, strolls the labyrinths beneath the galleries, wears out nine pairs of company shoes, and marvels at the beautiful works in his care. Bringley enters the museum as a ghost, silent and almost invisible, but soon finds his voice and his tribe: the artworks and their creators and the lively subculture of museum guards—a gorgeous mosaic of artists, musicians, blue-collar stalwarts, immigrants, cutups, and dreamers. As his bonds with his colleagues and the art grow, he comes to understand how fortunate he is to be walled off in this little world and how much it resembles the best aspects of the larger world to which he gradually, gratefully returns.
All the Beauty in the World is a portrait of the Met and the life lessons along the way.
Did you already love art before picking up this book? How has your opinion changed?
What “behind-the-scenes” insight into the Met surprised you?
This book is as much about grief and loneliness as it is about the artists of old. How do you relate to Patrick’s biography? His struggle with his brother’s illness and death?
How will you visit a museum differently after reading this novel?