A well-written prize for students of history, archaeology, and urban planning.




A searching survey of some of humankind’s greatest architectural accomplishments.

Whereas a human life is usually less than 100 years, writes Scottish preservationist Crawford, “in its lifetime, the same building can meet Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Adolf Hitler.” Buildings have come to stand for whole civilizations, have indeed been practically all that survives of a civilization, whether the now-fallen city of Palmyra or the ruins of Angkor Wat. In an arresting vision, Crawford juxtaposes the ancient Tower of Babel and the recently fallen twin towers of the World Trade Center, imagining that the American soldiers who invaded Iraq in 2003 “would have been able to see, had they known what they were looking for, the place where it all began.” The author’s “it all” includes some grandly noble experiments, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, one that both royalists and republicans knew even in a time of civil war “still mattered,” so much so that huge energies and treasuries went into rebuilding it after the Great Fire of 1666. Along the route of his detailed but lightly told tour, Crawford stops in at places such as Karakorum, the ancient Central Asian city that afforded the Mongol Empire a stronghold from which to conduct an unusually enlightened kind of administration, encouraging free trade and suppressing the usual bandits and robbers of the caravan routes; the long-gone walled city of Kowloon, victim of a perhaps not so enlightened modern colonizer; and even the imagined metropolises of the here-today, gone-tomorrow virtual world of GeoCities. Some of the most affecting passages, though, concern the World Trade Center and its wealth of intertwined stories, from its designer’s acrophobia (hence its narrow, containing windows) to the destruction of old lower Manhattan that preceded the building of those towers. Crawford closes this elegant, charged book with a view of cities now destroyed in the wars of the Middle East, ones that, hopefully, will one day rise from the ashes.

A well-written prize for students of history, archaeology, and urban planning.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11829-5

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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