Bookworm: ‘All the Beauty’ a unique, gently different kind of book

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me”

  • By Patrick Bringley
  • c. 2023, Simon & Schuster
  • $27.99, 240 pages

One hundred eighty degrees. That’s where you want to be after something very bad has occurred. You want as far as possible away from it, miles out of reach, an exact opposite situation, pronto, thank you. A new schedule, different place, rearrangement, anything that’s not that anymore. As in the new book “All the Beauty in the World” by Patrick Bringley, you reframe everything in your life.

The day Patrick Bringley was supposed to be married was the day of his brother’s funeral.

“All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me” by Patrick Bringley.

As the oldest child in the family, Tom had been someone Bringley loved and admired. He was strong, smart, funny, and he was supposed to be a witness in Bringley’s wedding, but Tom died of soft-tissue sarcoma before that could happen, at age 26.

In the days afterward, Bringley felt instinctively that he needed something in his life, something to replace “hospital” with healing. When he was a child, the Metropolitan Museum of Art had been a treat to visit; he remembered that his mother, an art historian and sometime performer, took him there occasionally, scraping small change together for the admission fee. Once, as an adolescent, he physically “experienced the great beauty of” a work of art, and he was somewhat abashed about it. Still, the Met was a place of awe-striking grandness and serenity to him.

Bringley set aside his college years, quit his high-profile job, and he became a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Guarding the Met “was the most straight-forward job I could think of in the most beautiful place I knew.”

Being a security guard requires lots of standing solo, Bringley says; there are usually people around but there’s often plenty of alone-time. Before becoming a guard at the Met, he loved working at a high-end New York magazine where people said he was surely ‘going places.’

Standing in place, grieving, observing, thinking, he said of the museum, “I find myself happy to be going nowhere.”

“All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me” author Patrick Bringley.

When it comes to the things you have hanging on your wall or gracing a tabletop, you know what you like. Dogs playing poker? Perfect. A folk-art bowl? Even better. “All the Beauty in the World” on a bookshelf? Yep, you’ll like that, too.

But you should know this first: in telling his story, author Patrick Bringley doesn’t seem to care if you can’t tell Egyptian art from an exit sign. If you’re never set foot in an art museum, no problem. It doesn’t matter here.

This does: Bringley writes sometimes about the history of art and the history of the Met, but his book is more about beauty met in quiet places and the healing it facilitated. Yes, there are Cassatts and kouros here, but compassion and kindness appear brighter.

Whether it’s the art that tugs at your heart, or the sweetly-charming, soothing stories of people lost and people found that appeal to you, “All the Beauty in the World” is a unique and gently different kind of book. Just picture yourself with it.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at