April 2010

Photo of the Mauritshuis by Jackie Kever used under a Creative Commons license.

Mariët Westermann, A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic, 1585-1718 (Yale University Press, 2005).
A survey of Dutch art from the height of the Netherlands’ power and glory. There are passing nods to architecture, prints and sculpture, but the focus here is Dutch painting. This is an excellent introduction to the period, with a helpful discussion of different genres, themes and other aspects of Dutch painting, and the book is beautifully illustrated. Visitors to the Rijksmuseum and Mauritshuis will see many works discussed by Westermann, and will find that her explanations compare well with the museums’ audio guides.

Here is Westermann’s bio at NYU. She also wrote the book on Rembrandt. Google Books lets you take a look. Beautiful Lofty Things calls it lively and interesting. Ben used it as a source. Mae saw the food. Laura recommends it. I believe it was a New York Times Notable Book, but I can’t find that on the New York Times. After you’ve read it, plan your trip to the Rijksmuseum.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

Photo of Amsterdam by MorBCN used under a Creative Commons license.

Manfred Wolf, ed., Amsterdam: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, 2001).
A collection of short pieces, fiction and otherwise, set in Amsterdam and organized by neighborhoods and themes.  Much of this volume appears in English for the first time.  I particularly liked Geert Mak’s account of hanging around Centraal Station at night, and Marion Bloem’s memoir of a Jordaan childhood, but there are no duds here.

Here’s the publisher’s page, and here’s more about Wolf. It’s on National Geographic’s list of recommendations for the city.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

Amsterdam Centraal Station
Photo of Amsterdam Centraal Station by lambertwm used under a Creative Commons license.

Cees Nooteboom, Rituals (Louisiana State University Press, 1983).
A novel in three parts, each about a suicide, more or less.  In the first, set in 1963, Inni Wintrop’s wife leaves him, and he decides to commit suicide, though he fails to kill himself.  The second, set in 1953, relates Inni’s encounter with Arnold Taads, and the third, set in 1973, relates Inni’s encounter with Philip Taads, the son of Arnold.  All three men lack purpose; they are detached from the world. All three have their own rituals to fill this emptiness.  Fans of existentialism will find much to like here.

Here are pages about Nooteboom from the author himselfthe NLPVFThe Complete Review and books and writers. David Levine caricatures him. The Complete Review calls it an excellent, thoughtful, touching novel. Traces says it is profound and penetrating while also accessible and interesting. Richard Crary posts two passages.  Andrew Johnson posts one, and adds that Nooteboom’s prose demands to be reread promptly on completion. At Lolo:Lit, L.B. says it is truly adult, in that a reader must have an adult brain, while O.A. questions Inni’s attitudes towards women. Many bloggers have listed it as one of 1001 books to read before you die, but not many have — get cracking, people.

Buy Rituals at Amazon.com.