Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Exploring Manhattan's Early Years at Tonight's Tenement Talk

Russell Shorto is the author of Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan, which is one of the core books at the Tenement Museum Shop. This readable, comprehensive history tells of the early days of New Amsterdam.

Since Island at the Center of the World is a few years old (Shorto's newest book is Descartes Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reson), the author doesn't make too many appearances supporting it. But as this month marks 400 years since Henry Hudson sailed into New York harbor, we thought it would be a perfect time to revisit the island's early days, and luckily Shorto agreed.

Funnily enough, he spent a while living in Holland recently, an experience he chronicled for the New York Times Magazine. You only have to read the beginning to fall in love with this man's writing:

PICTURE ME, IF YOU WILL, as I settle at my desk to begin my workday, and feel free to use a Vermeer image as your template. The pale-yellow light that gives Dutch paintings their special glow suffuses the room. The interior is simple, with high walls and beams across the ceiling. The view through the windows of the 17th-century house in which I have my apartment is of similarly gabled buildings lining the other side of one of Amsterdam’s oldest canals. Only instead of a plump maid or a raffish soldier at the center of the canvas, you should substitute a sleep-rumpled writer squinting at a laptop.

Hope you will all join us tonight at 6:30 PM at the Museum Shop, 108 Orchard Street.

- Posted by Kate Stober

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