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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When scribble becomes art, 1 Dec 2010
By 
Hande Z (Singapore) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Simon Schama writes history books that are so engaging and absorbing that anyone reading them cannot help thinking that history is fun. "Scribble, Scribble, Scribble" is a collection of Schama's miscellaneous writings. He onced worked as a journalist and had written for newspapers even in 2009 as some of the essays in this book indicate. The range of subjects covered are varied from an account of travelling on board the Queen Mary 2 luxury liner, to why Amricans are unloved in Europe. He wrote that Rudyard Kipling who was touring Yellowstone in 1889 "was bewildered by the patriotic hyperbole that seemed to come so naturally to the citizens of the United States." He moved on to talk warmly about great cities - Amsterdam and Washington DC.

The more serious topics included remembrance of 9/11 a year on, and Omaha Beach from which an example of his brilliant prose can be read: "So, when you are all losing your cornflakes on the unedifying news of the day, just hold that imperishable event close, honour the wrinkles that were once just twenty-year-olds trying to make it to the end of the beach and, while they were at it, made the world a better place."

The biographical scratches in this boook included Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Isaiah Berlin, Charlotte Rampling, and Richard Avedon, of whom Schama began with a pertinent and charming line, "Was there ever such a pretty wart? There it sits beside the noble nose, the solitary imperfection in Richard Avedon's impossibly beautiful portrait head of Barack Obama".

Schama's obvious love of fine food is reflected in his essays on this subject - "What is the single, best word to describe the pleasure of a great bolognese sauce?" Well, that is what makes "Scribble, Scribble, Scribble" so mouth-watering.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the Kitchen With Simon, 15 Oct 2010
By 
takingadayoff "takingadayoff" (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
As historian, art critic, political commentator, essayist, biographer, and amateur cook, Simon Schama can be interesting on any number of topics. The essays in this volume are mostly from the past ten years, but there are a few from as early as 1979. They first appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Financial Times, The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books. Some of the pieces appeared as chapters in anthologies, or as essays for theater programs and exhibition catalogs. Some were speeches he gave.

Schama is above all a historian, so I shouldn't have been surprised to find his historical essays a little too scholarly for my short attention span. On the other hand, I enjoyed many of the pieces on movies and art. It was fun reading how director Martin Scorcese caught him off guard by citing Kind Hearts and Coronets as an inspiration for Goodfellas. Then Schama had to scramble to give himself a crash course in horror film history when Scorcese described his other inspirations over the years.

One thought-provoking essay was about Richard Avedon's photographs. Although the book includes some illustrations to go with the art essays, Schama talked about several photographs that weren't included. His descriptions were so vivid that I had to find the images online to see for myself. They really were fascinating, and now I have become an Avedon fan, thanks to Schama.

Schama mentioned a few times in his food essays that he used Julia Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I just read a book of letters between Child and her friend and editor, Avis DeVoto (As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis Devoto), in which they discuss at length the details of the book that Child was writing. The idea was to translate French recipes into recipes that would work in American kitchens with ingredients available in America using American appliances. Schama, cooking in an English kitchen, must have had to translate the recipes yet again to accommodate English ingredients and appliances. I can imagine how many ways this could have gone wrong, but Schama seems to have succeeded.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schama's Scribblings, 2 Aug 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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Having recently attended a lecture he gave on the Festival of Britain and having been an avid follower of his television programmes (historical and political)over the years, I enjoyed this book for its range of subjects, each handled with the same knowledge and enthusiasm. Like many other writers these days, he obviously and sensibly retains copyright of articles he writes and combining them in an anthology like this provides additional revenue.
He has a great depth of knowledge on a wide range of subjects - an enthusiastic polymath; coupled with his flair for language, his passionate nature and his willingness to share his ideas, the mixture is intoxicating. With topics like Travelling, Testing Democracy, Performing, Picturing and Cooking all written with the same passionate expertise and enthusiasm, and each with five or more essays in it, the range is obviously far-reaching. In one, he comments on the McCain election camp for its churlishness (78) when they were derogatory about Obama's oratory and returns to a familiar and similar subject later observing: "Obama can play heart and he can play head". A supporter of President Obama,he followed the election campaign with the historian's eye. If history and art are insufficient, the gourmet cook even provides recipes and advice for the kitchen. Watch out Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein - Schama's in the kitchen.
As adept an art critic and art historian as "ordinary historian", his essay on Turner makes fascinating reading ending with this comment on the sunrise/sunset in Turner's 1838 painting with the catchy title: "The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up" - "That's the wonderful thing about being British: you can never really tell which is which". (Here I must admit bias and partiality as we share a deep interest in the same painter - Mark Rothko, cf. "Power of Art", pp. 396-440 and the video chapter in the DVD of the same title which includes an actor's impression of a young Schama taking a "right, wrong turn" in the Tate to come face-to-canvas with Rothko.)
As each chapter is relatively short, it makes easy reading and a book into which one can delve at leisure. If one has read any others of his, e.g. "Hang-Ups", "The Power of Art", the erudite but unpretentious and flowing style will come as no surprise.
Highly recommended
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More About Mum, 15 Sep 2010
A very good read, made up so it seems of previous articles. Can tend to be the historian slightly. The parts free from history are very entertaining & he even includes some recipes.
Overall a highly delightful book.
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