SIMON SCHAMA The Embarrassment of Riches
While I can’t claim that I’ve read a book cover to cover recently, I am really enjoying this book on the Golden Age of Dutch Culture. I’m right in the middle of luscious descriptions of Dutch feasts, and it’s wonderful/horrifying: over 100 courses meals, many MANY pounds of meat! Even their navy ate well. Schama uses visual resources liberally–Chris Wood even gets a shout out in the introduction! There are a few things that I’m sure will stay with me so far:
1. The extent to which the Dutch self-identified with other “chosen” peoples from Biblical narratives.
2. The explicit and at times nationalist moralizing of foods.
3. The general feeling that the Dutch had (or may have had) that their fortunes were not… guaranteed by God.
4. There is a lot of talk in the book about how the Dutch were deeply effected by the sea and landscape. Wars were won and lost because of storms at sea, beached whales were thought of as terrible omens, and drowning was used as punishment somewhat freely.
5. The motto of Zeeland: I STRUGGLE AND EMERGE. (What great post-college reading).
I’m looking forward to chapters on housewives, cleanliness, children and more opulence.