A richly detailed and freshly illuminating musical/political history.




For half a century, classical music reflected America’s identity on the world stage.

In a thoroughly researched and engrossing history, Rosenberg (Twentieth Century U.S. History/Hunter Coll. and CUNY Graduate Center; How Far the Promised Land?: World Affairs and the Civil Rights Movement From the First World War to Vietnam, 2005, etc.) reveals the surprising connection between classical music and world politics from the early 1900s until the end of the Cold War. During these years, classical music became imbued “with political and ideological meaning” that helped Americans “decide what was worth fighting for and why. It helped to illuminate the meaning of democracy, freedom, and patriotism” as well as “tyranny and oppression.” Because music seemed so potent a force, debate raged over which music and which performers should be heard in concert halls: Musical nationalists believed that certain composers, performers, or conductors could contaminate the nation and should be banned; musical universalists held that music transcended politics and “could speak to the hopes and dreams of all humanity.” The two positions became violently opposed during World War I, when “uncontrolled xenophobia and hypernationalism” focused on Germans. Concerts and contracts were canceled, two acclaimed maestros were imprisoned, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a requisite part of an orchestra’s repertoire. Americans, Rosenberg writes, “came to see Germans as demonic, whether they were fighting on a European battlefield or directing symphony orchestras.” By the next war, however, universalists prevailed, and the idea of “enemy music” disappeared, replaced by “the notion that classical music, German compositions included, could help vanquish malevolent regimes.” As Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitsky put it, “of all the arts, music is the most powerful medium against evil.” That sentiment continued during the Cold War, when the American government sent symphony orchestras and performers throughout the world “to display the fruits of liberal democracy to friend and foe.” Among the stars of that effort was New York Philharmonic conductor Leonard Bernstein, who believed that classical music “might play a part in building a more compassionate and cooperative world.”

A richly detailed and freshly illuminating musical/political history.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-60842-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?