The Emperor's Giraffe and Other Stories of Cultures in Contact

Wilson, Author, Samuel M. Wilson, Author Basic Books $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8133-3585-8
With a light touch that belies the depth of vision behind this delightful collection of essays, Wilson (Hispaniola) trains his anthropological spyglass on the point of contact where cultures converge or collide. Ranging across the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean from Columbuss time to the present, this associate professor at the University of Texas offers short reflections on such diverse topics as Viking misadventures among the Eskimos, French castles in the shadow of EuroDisney, a Jewish cemetery in the West Indies and the copacetic relationship between a conquistador and a Taino chieftan. In an essay on the impact of colonialism on the gardens of the Italian Renaissance, Wilson notes the early hybrid roses sprinkled around the background of Botticellis The Birth of Venus. From his discussion of the diplomatic ties that brought giraffes from Africa to Asia centuries prior to European colonialization to the ironic connection between the Opium Wars and todays War on Drugs, the author provides a mix of fresh details and original insights. Although some of the essays are too brief, Wilson is an able guide to some amusing near-misses in history, as well as to the poignant aftermath of culture clashes that we still live with today. The annotated table of contents and suggested reading lists at each chapters end are an added boon. Maps, illustrations included. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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