I am a shallow person, and what proves it is that the favorite thing I've read all year, chosen from all the great works I've skimmed -- the literature I've flipped to the end of, the philosophy whose summaries I've read on Wikipedia -- is still Cellini getting blessing from the Pope to murder. He is my favorite, and I had never heard of him before, so thanks Harvard.
Today's Cellini isn't quite up to that, (what with the instructional part where you can learn how to make your own 16th-century bronze statue), but he is still a man who never has any emotion unless he can have it to the utmost! of! emotion!:
NO sooner had I got to bed, than I ordered my serving-maids to carry food and wine for all the men into the workshop; at the same time I cried: “I shall not be alive tomorrow.” ...Unsurprisingly, he pulls it off ("they had learned and seen things done which other masters judged impossible"). And afterward, he reports, he had salad. The ancients -- they're just like us!
While I was thus terribly afflicted, I beheld the figure of a man enter my chamber, twisted in his body into the form of a capital S. He raised a lamentable, doleful voice, like one who announces their last hour to men condemned to die upon the scaffold, and spoke these words: “O Benvenuto! your statue is spoiled, and there is no hope whatever of saving it.” No sooner had I heard the shriek of that wretch than I gave a howl which might have been heard from the sphere of flame. Jumping from my bed, I seized my clothes and began to dress. The maids, and my lads, and every one who came around to help me, got kicks or blows of the fist, while I kept crying out in lamentation: “Ah! traitors! enviers! This is an act of treason, done by malice prepense! But I swear by God that I will sift it to the bottom, and before I die will leave such witness to the world of what I can do as shall make a score of mortals marvel.”
One of my flaws as a writer is that I tend to avoid writing BIG EMOTIONS, which, of course, is what makes drama. Cellini never falls into this error. It is what makes him such a delight to read, although he sounds like the type of guy who, if you knew him in real life, you would set the clocks ahead before he came over -- so that after a couple of hours of his holding forth on his greatness, and his weeping on your shoulder at the excellence of your sausage and peppers, you could finally say, "Gee whiz, look at the time!"