THE EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

AN INTERPRETATION OF DUTCH CULTURE IN THE GOLDEN AGE

Scholarly, exhaustively researched, packed with highly esoteric information, this massive study is less daunting than it might seem at first glance, thanks to Schama's lively writing style and his eye for the colorful and thought-provoking detail. Specialized, but likely to instruct and, more importantly, entertain the general reader. Focusing his attention on the Netherlands during the 17th century, Schama investigates the linkage that the citizens who wrested their lands from the sea felt with the waters lapping their shores. The sea, quite understandably, was viewed as an enemy and, in a particularly evocative section, the author discourses at length on the identification the Dutch felt with the Children of Israel, especially the Jews of Exodus and their flight through the Red Sea. It is intriguing to speculate on how Netherlander attitudes influenced our Puritan forebears during their stay in the Low Countries. Puritan talk of founding the "New Jerusalem" and the Calvinist emphasis on Old Testament teachings owe much lo the Pilgrims' sojourn in the Netherlands. Equally provocative are the insights given into Golden Age attitudes toward sexuality—chastity was demanded and. again, had something to do with Old Testament attitudes, this time toward "cleanliness." Not that women were secluded, as they were in Latin countries; they were, in fact, quite liberated in their social intercourse, but a Dutch woman's reputation had to be as spotless as her doorstep. The dichotomy between apparently uninhibited public behavior and the strictest private morality confused and shocked both Catholic visitors and Puritan moralists. Among other topics that come under Schama's scrutiny are art, superstition. finance and child-rearing during the period when the Dutch Republic was one of Europe's superpowers. In each area he explores, Schama discovers details that prompt far-ranging speculations about religion, philosophy and the human condition. A stimulating and important dissection of a little-known but constantly fascinating era. A lavish compilation of 325 photographs (not seen) illustrates the text.

Pub Date: May 31, 1987

ISBN: 0679781242

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1987

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more