A disappointing rag-bag of a book into which many facts and a handful of ideas are tossed with little apparent attempt to...

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COSMOPOLITAN CULTURE: The Gilt-Edged Dream of a Tolerant City

A disappointing rag-bag of a book into which many facts and a handful of ideas are tossed with little apparent attempt to arrange them coherently. Kahn's ""thesis""--that cosmopolitan centers are characterized by their diversity and, generally, their tolerance of outsiders--is about as thought-provoking as the idea that large cities can be distinguished by high population figures. Even when the author offers an occasional insightful premise, she seems incapable of buttressing her argument with relevant facts. Kahn centers her attention on six cities: Babylon, Constantinople, Vienna, New York, Paris, and Tokyo, the first four according with her definition, ""cosmopolitan,"" the final two somehow lacking. Her list of great ""outsiders"" in each city is varied, if only superficially delineated: the Old Testament Daniel; the Imperial delegate to the Byzantine court, Liudprand of Cremona; Alfred Dreyfus; Sigmund Freud; and Langston Hughes, among others. Kahn's discussion of the sources of Freud's theories on society is one of the most successful sections of her book, but even here she dissipates her impact with vague generalities: ""The way to understand a minority member is through his dream."" The problem is exacerbated by Kahn's style--a combination of quasi-Biblical and ""stream-of-consciousness"" that merely adds to the reader's resistance to the arguments presented, as uncontroversial as they are. For the most part, then, an exercise in the obvious, poorly organized, and stylistically overwrought.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1987

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987