Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 18, 2011

Sensational snippets: The Amateur Science Of Love (2011), by Craig Sherborne

The Amateur Science of Love‘If my discoveries are other people’s commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness’ (Elizabeth Bowen, writing of Rome).

This is one of my favourite quotations and it’s furled across the banner of my travel blog to assert my right to be excited by something that others have seen many times before.  Shirley Hazzard quotes it in The Ancient Shore, Despatches from Naples.  (See my review).  Every time I join the throng in the great museums and galleries of Europe I note the disdain of the regulars who scorn the tourists’ naïve enthusiasm, and I dismiss it.  It is their loss, not mine. Feeling childlike joy in middle age is an experience to be treasured, I think.

In Craig Sherborne’s new book, The Amateur Science of Love, shortlisted for the 2011 Victorian Premier’s Prize for Fiction, I found this Sensational Snippet which encapsulates the emotions of the long haul tourist who has waited a lifetime to see the work of the grand masters:

Colin is in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam with his lady-love, Tilda who is an artist.

Tilda got goose bumps staring at them.  I felt jealous, which was ridiculous: who can feel jealousy over something not living? Besides, they gave me goose bumps too.  Here were the world’s most famous sunflowers.  Here were the wheat fields I had seen in books since a kid.  They called me forward like the priest of all paintings to worship their surfaces. The paint was so thick in places I wondered how it held together and didn’t fall off in chunks from gravity.  Van Gogh had once stood before them as I was now doing, his hand reaching to the canvas churning paint into something buttery.  I was like another him, my eyes beholding what he beheld, my own fingers just an arm span away from joining me to him through the time warp of paint.

The Amateur Science of Love by Craig Sherborne, Text Publishing, 2011, p53-4)


  1. The extract you selected to quote really resonated with me. Years ago a stopover in Amsterdam gave me just enough time to visit the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. I expected to be overcome in Anne’s bedroom where the movie star postcards on the wall and the photographs of the English ‘little princesses’ reflected my own childhood. However, I didn’t anticipate that I’d walk into a ‘sea’ of Van Gogh paintings and just burst into tears. I’m grateful for the experience.


    • I’d love to visit Holland. There is so much to see and experience in Europe with all its complex history. I know I’m lucky to have travelled as much as I have, but it seems as if I never have enough time (or money) to go everywhere that I want to!


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