Saturday, July 09, 2016

What is Craig A. Monson reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Craig A. Monson, author of Habitual Offenders: A True Tale of Nuns, Prostitutes, and Murderers in Seventeenth-Century Italy.

His entry begins:
I’m certainly not alone in having discovered the utility of Google Books’ Library Project. As a writer of history, I spent decades planning research trips around libraries likely to contain specific volumes. (Before online catalogs it could be difficult even to discover where copies might be.) If I was lucky, my target library (usually in a major Italian city) would own a copy. If I was not, it did not—or the volume had been lost, misshelved, reserved for restoration or rebinding. Modern-day, in-house digitization isn’t always a solution to such problems. Last month I arrived at a Roman institution to discover a fragile collection had been digitized: at the click of a mouse, the manuscripts would be accessible on the institution’s computers; the originals had been permanently withdrawn from circulation. Alas, the digital copy had somehow contracted a virus. Until funds for disinfection become available—unlikely, given the state of the Italian economy—these sources remain out of reach.

Small wonder, then, that Google Books’ Library Project seems like some sort of miracle. I am regularly amazed, not only by how wide the enterprise has cast its net, but especially by the small fry caught up in it....[read on]
About Habitual Offenders, from the publisher:
In April 1644, two nuns fled Bologna’s convent for reformed prostitutes. A perfunctory archiepiscopal investigation went nowhere, and the nuns were quickly forgotten. By June of the next year, however, an overwhelming stench drew a woman to the wine cellar of her Bolognese townhouse, reopened after a two-year absence—where to her horror she discovered the eerily intact, garroted corpses of the two missing women.

Drawing on over four thousand pages of primary sources, the intrepid Craig A. Monson reconstructs this fascinating history of crime and punishment in seventeenth-century Italy. Along the way, he explores Italy’s back streets and back stairs, giving us access to voices we rarely encounter in conventional histories: prostitutes and maidservants, mercenaries and bandits, along with other “dubious” figures negotiating the boundaries of polite society. Painstakingly researched and breathlessly told, Habitual Offenders will delight historians and true-crime fans alike.
Learn more about the book and author at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nuns Behaving Badly.

The Page 99 Test: Habitual Offenders.

Writers Read: Craig A. Monson.

--Marshal Zeringue