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

FALLINGWATER RISING

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, E.J. KAUFMAN, AND AMERICA’S MOST EXTRAORDINARY HOUSE

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...

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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