What’s gained here is the pleasure of watching exemplary reporting illuminate a fascinating crossroads of American popular...




On the hundredth anniversary of the naming of Times Square, journalist Traub (City on a Hill, 1994, etc.) traces the colorful history of America’s premier theater district and appraises its most recent makeover by Disney and other global corporate brands.

From the days of Diamond Jim Brady and George M. Cohan in the 1910s through the reign of Irving Berlin in the ’50s, Times Square was both a veritable factory of theatrical magic and a real-estate mogul’s dream. Ever-changing and ever-increasing in value, its restaurants, arcades, theaters, and flashing billboards were a beacon to the world. The Great White Way always also had a seamy side; Traub quotes Jack Kerouac to the effect that it is the natural home of both the gentleman in the well-cut suit and the drunk in the gutter. By the ’70s, the drunk—and the drug dealers, pimps, and porno houses—had won the day and driven out all but the most persistent suits. At that point, the real-estate interests rose up in a bid to reclaim their lost cash cow. Traub trenchantly examines the warring commercial and government factions that at first promoted reconstruction, then stymied it for 20 years, and finally created what critics describe as a brand-name theme park ringed by outsized office buildings, again a real-estate mogul’s dream. The author visits the participating moguls, the corporate brand managers (including the boosterish head of the world’s largest Toys ’R’ Us), the famous architects and hip billboard designers, the theater owners, the street people, and the few remaining proponents of arcade games and experimental theater (including the rebellious daughter of Times Square tower builder Douglas Durst), to tell us what’s been gained and what’s been lost.

What’s gained here is the pleasure of watching exemplary reporting illuminate a fascinating crossroads of American popular art and commerce.

Pub Date: March 23, 2004

ISBN: 0-375-50788-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2004

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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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