Intellectually robust look at the delicate relationship between profound design and filthy lucre.

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THE EDIFICE COMPLEX

HOW THE RICH AND POWERFUL SHAPE THE WORLD

Acerbic examination of the relationships between despots, presidents and the super-rich, and the architects who vie for their commissions.

Observer architecture critic Sudjic (John Pawson Works, 2000, etc.) is fascinated by the baroque dance through which prominent architects and their masters enable each other’s dreams of immortality, whether embodied by Albert Speer’s promises to Hitler regarding Berlin’s “ruin value,” or Donald Trump’s application of vulgar business bluster to skyscraper marketing. He opens by recalling Saddam Hussein’s building mania, the latest attempt by a dictator to secure a permanence that rarely endures: “Architecture is used by political leaders to seduce, to impress, and to intimidate.” Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany provide a historical template in understanding the results of such Faustian bargains. Sudjic unfavorably compares Speer’s notorious postwar dissembling to the moral decisiveness shown by his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Pagano, who grew disillusioned with Mussolini and joined the partisans. A grim comedy emerged among architects serving Stalin: No one ever dared to second-guess him, so projects went ahead with drafting errors intact. Like Soviet Russia, Communist China also relied upon grotesquely outsized public works, which allowed the state to simultaneously dictate terms to renowned architects, and destroy inconvenient traces of prior regimes. In the United States, raw political power is translated into ego and wealth: Sudjic sees this epitomized in the shabby fund-raising and sterile monolithic designs of recent presidential libraries, noting “the more lackluster the president, the larger the library.” Today, “ambitious cities” pursue ill-conceived projects in hopes of scoring a civic success like Bilbao’s Guggenheim or the Sydney Opera House. Yet Sudjic asserts that the Frank Gehry era of instant iconic structures is coming to an end, as evidenced by the acclaimed Dia museum, located in a building that was once a box factory.

Intellectually robust look at the delicate relationship between profound design and filthy lucre.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-59420-068-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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