Roberto Calasso proves to be unparalleled when it comes to informative and engaging writing. I have had "Les Fleur de Mal" on my to-read shelf for a couple years now, and came across this one totally by accident, not even realizing, when I bought it, that it was about the auhor of the same poetry collection. That proved to be a wonderful surprise, but most delightful was the writing found within this book's pages.
"La Folie Baudelaire" is a masterpiece that is well-written and well-researched. It does not read like a heavy, overly biographical book, neither does it read as a historical fiction either. It proves to be a perfect balance between the two, with its focus shifting to artists like Manet and Degas and giving a very sound overview of the French literature and art of the time period, always returning to the central figure of Baudelaire in the end and reminding the reader of how this connects to him.
This isn't the kind of book that one should tackle quickly, as I learned soon after I began reading it. But it provides the patient reader with a great reward, challenging the mind and giving memorable images and bits of information, all without sacrificing the occasional joke or clever line. I wish more authors wrote like this, that there were more books similar in style and subject matter to this one. Perhaps I haven't found them yet, although I do think more likely that even if I do pick up anything similar, it won't compare to Calasso's masterpiece. I look forward to delving further into his other books with high hopes after this one.