Sunday, December 10, 2006

Simon Schama Moves Me

There has always been much to admire about Simon Schama, but I never expected him to move me - impress and inform yes, move no. But then, on two occasions within twelve hours of each other, he did, indeed, moisten my lids. The first was his programme on Mark Rothko, the last in his TV series Power of Art, a series so damaged by over-writing that I had stopped watching. But I just caught the end of this show and there he was in the Rothko room at Tate Modern affirming that those paintings intended for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York were, indeed, the real thing, a supreme example of the power of art to address directly the first and last things. This is what I thought when I first saw them, but I had forgotten. The second occasion was this article on Tom Waits in The Guardian. It speaks for itself, as does Waits, AND it includes Wallace Stevens. I used to think Schama was too smart for his own good, but, it turns out, he's much smarter than that.


  1. Bryan, thank you for this. I will have to look up Tom Waits. Sounds like a real find.

    I have heard Simon Schama lecture at LSE about his book on Siera Leone and American emigrants - it was an erudite story told with ease and real feeling. Hence my disappointment with the latest BBC2 series - so much dramatisation just spoils it.

  2. Never would have thought of Schama as a Waits fan -- the man's now risen inestimably in my opinion -- but that review makes it even harder to resist selling a kidney to afford the new album.

    I agree with you, Rebel: do drama-documentaries ever work? I lasted two minutes into the programme on Caravaggio.

  3. I find your remarks about Simon Schama's Power of Art really interesting. First of all, I've really appreciated the series, then, personally, I've always found Simon Schama's epilogues so moving, even in "A History of Britain", that although I'm French, I couldn't help sheding tears each time. And I've watched it (and read it) several times. I think that it is great art! The force of evidence, the outstanding beauty of words and demonstrations... What talent and modesty!
    Valérie Renucci