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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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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