A dexterous work of urban and architectural history, and a passionate tribute to the grand buildings of old New York.

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GREAT FORTUNE

THE EPIC OF ROCKFELLER CENTER

A suitably grand, and suitably complex, history of the skyscraper that remains a symbol of all that is wondrous about New York City.

It being New York, there was nothing straightforward about the planning, design, or construction of what was once called Radio City. As former Time executive Daniel Okrent writes, the project began as an opera house, shifted locations and key backers and eventually purposes, and fell into the hands of the illustrious and magnificently moneyed Rockefeller family, some of whose members had, in the 1920s, lately shifted their public stance from avaricious acquirers of fortune to servants of the public good. After tough negotiations with the president and trustees of Columbia University (who would realize a fortune from their lease of the immensely valuable real estate, if decades later), the Rockefellers and their architects broadened their notion of the project to make it even grander; it would become, Okrent writes, not a destination in the city but, “organically, the city itself—a city where the privately maintained sidewalks were spotless, where the ramp-relieved cross streets were free of delivery trucks” and other impediments. Yet, for all the deep pockets of the builders, the construction fell on every imaginable difficulty, from labor difficulties to the onset of the Depression. Peopling his narrative with a vast array of characters—among them, sometimes in cameo, Benito Mussolini, Diego Rivera (whose assistant had to implore construction workers not to pee on the master’s murals), V.I. Lenin, Henry Luce, and, of course, John D. Rockefeller, then the wealthiest man in the world, and his son Nelson, whose oversight turned out to be of critical importance—Okrent takes readers on an improbably wild ride that, in the end, will leave them wondering how the vaulting skyscraper ever got built, but glad that it did.

A dexterous work of urban and architectural history, and a passionate tribute to the grand buildings of old New York.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03169-0

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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