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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

Did you like this book?

more