Russell Shorto

Russell Shorto's website


The Frozen Mill

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Three years ago I moved to the panhandle of western Maryland. It’s a wild, mountainous region. There are some lovely Victorian town centers, and also hardscrabble hamlets tucked into the valleys that are comprised largely of low-slung ranch houses fronted by chain-link fences and rusted pickup trucks. The past has a way of lingering in such places; there is no economic development to sweep it away, so it just sits there. (My latest post on newyorker.com.)


photo by dave romero


Hip Hops

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Not long ago, I found myself in a beer-tasting room in upstate New York, looking out on a field of hops and sampling the craft brews of a company called Indian Ladder Farmstead. Among the list of beers chalked on a blackboard was one particularly hoppy creation named “Dr. Paul Matthews I.P.A.” Naturally I felt obliged to inquire about the eponymous doctor. The owner, Dietrich Gehring, told me that the name was an homage. He said his passion for wild hops had led him to Matthews, to whom he referred as the Lord of the Hops…

My latest post on NewYorker.com.


Finding Vermeer

Friday, November 20, 2015

An art historian at the University of Amsterdam has identified, with as close to certainty as one is likely to get, the location of one of the iconic paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, Vermeer’s “Little Street.” It was always known to be in Delft, the only city Vermeer painted, but, though others tried, no one could pinpoint the spot. Using maps, water tax records and mathematics, Frans Grijzenhout reasoned that Vermeer must have been standing on Vlamingstraat opposite what are today house numbers 40 and 42. One large clue was the double gate in the painting: a rarity in the 17th century city. The houses of today are different but the size of the lots is precisely the same.

v1


PBS !

Thursday, September 17, 2015

cover My book “The Island at the Center of the World” is being developed as a dramatic series for PBS. As if that isn’t big enough news, the great Ridley Scott has signed up to executive produce, along with David Zucker, whose credits include “The Good Wife” and, currently, “Killing Jesus.” The writer of the series — Ed Redlich, renowned for “The Practice,” “Shark,” and the current show “Unforgettable” — is working on the pilot script right now. Arvind Ethan David is the producer who optioned the book and brought all the parties together. His company, Ideate Media, will produce the series together with Scott Free, Ridley Scott’s company, Things are moving quickly — stay tuned!


You Change Laws

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

We got a rare hint of actual political wisdom from a politician when Hillary Clinton responded to a Black Lives Matter activist: “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws.” Is that not how it went with the end of slavery, with women’s suffrage, with every political advance in the civil rights movement, with every step in the struggle for women’s equality, with Obamacare? Each time around, it’s not a battle to win hearts and minds of those on the wrong side of history. It is a battle to marshal political forces, to enact laws, and then to enforce them. You don’t hope for or expect the opponents to come around in their hearts. You expect that, through continued enforcement, you will win over their children and grandchildren. It’s a long haul.
wallace


Speaking of New Netherland

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I’m hosting an irregular series of podcasts on the topic of the former Dutch colony of New Netherland, which gave rise to New York (and much else). The first–an interview with renowned historical painter Len Tantillo–is online now. Len’s meticulous attention to historical detail makes his paintings veritable windows into what was. Here, for example, is his rendering of Hanover Square, in Lower Manhattan, in the mid 1600s:

Hanover Square


The Edge of the World

Friday, June 5, 2015

Michael Pye’s new book is bristling, wide-ranging and big-themed. It’s the sort of historical work whose thesis is virtually impossible to prove, but it’s also a reminder that history isn’t an exact science. At its most meaningful, history involves a good deal of art and storytelling. Pye’s book is full of both.

In “The Edge of the World,” Pye concentrates on a murky era — the Middle Ages — and on a region of Europe that seems always to have been blanketed in mist, the North Sea. “This cold, gray sea in an obscure time made the modern world possible,” he declares in his introduction. In the pages that follow, he doesn’t prove that grand statement so much as toss handfuls of paint at it, in many places coloring it in while obscuring it in others.

Continue to my review in the New York Times Book Review.


← Older posts