Digging into personal and architectural history, Toker demonstrates spadework of the highest, most exacting, and refined...




A cerebral, spiritual, and social pilgrimage through Fallingwater and the long shadows cast by the two personalities who brought the great home to fruition.

It rises beside a stream in western Pennsylvania, an architectural icon of cognitive dissonance, the thrusting lines cutting through the unruly rusticity: “Pittsburgh-on-Bear-Run,” Fallingwater. A piece of man-made sublime, architectural historian Toker suggests, it is a counterfoil wedding industry to nature. Yet Toker’s story of Fallingwater is not solely, or even primarily, about the building of the masterpiece (though he goes to great lengths to draw out the legion of influences, starting—and ending—with Frank Lloyd Wright), but about how the house pumped oxygen into Wright’s career after the eclipse of the European stylists and catapulted E.J. Kaufmann past anti-Semitic snobbery: “His fixed strategy was to use architecture to raise his social status” and to use Fallingwater as a commercial showcase to demonstrate “nothing more than simple adherence to the merchant’s creed,” though also emphasizing Kaufmann’s role as patron. Toker softens the edge of the characterizations here with profiles that make Wright and Kaufmann human, “in their own moral universe,” sparking “eccentric and self-indulgent lifestyles.” Fallingwater, too, becomes a living thing through Toker’s intimate wording: a wondrous creature, exquisitely tuned to the site. As for the client: “It would be hard to find a house plan that better chartered the dynamics of a dysfunctional family.” Toker sees Fallingwater as a symbol of hope for all Americans during the black heart of the Depression, escapism at its best, even, thanks to the publicity machine of Time and Life, “a patrician dwelling that passed for the abode of one of the people.” Finally, Toker ably skewers E.J. Kaufmann Jr.’s self-serving bluster regarding his role in the project.

Digging into personal and architectural history, Toker demonstrates spadework of the highest, most exacting, and refined order. (16 pp. color and 150 b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-4026-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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...


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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