A whale of a time with Albrecht Dürer

Great books make genres jump. It happened with W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, which looked like a travelogue, claimed to be a novel and felt like neither. Albert and the Whale by Philip Hoare, which recalls and converses with Sebald, is such a work. An antic and original creation, it is not exactly a biography of the revolutionary Renaissance printmaker, painter and theorist of geometry and perspective. For the fuller story of Albrecht Dürer, turn to Erwin Panofsky’s mighty monograph, as Hoare does frequently. Instead, Hoare has made a book as much for Dürer as it is about him. Dürer’s life and art are thrillingly encountered. But imagine writing