A far-reaching portrait of fin de siècle New York, buttressed by the author’s assiduous research—even though one can only...

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WHEN THE ASTORS OWNED NEW YORK

BLUE BLOODS AND GRAND HOTELS IN A GILDED AGE

National Book Award–winning biographer Kaplan (Walt Whitman, 1980, etc.) tells a tale of two cousins, William Waldorf Astor and John Jacob Astor IV.

Great-grandsons of America’s first millionaire, and prototypical scions of America’s Gilded Age, the two men left enduring marks on their native New York City’s architecture, high society and especially on the business of luxury hotels that they all but defined. They inherited a family feud along with their fortunes, exacerbated by their divergent temperaments. John Jacob (1854–1912), better known as Jack, was tagged in the newspapers with the sobriquet “Jack Ass,” thanks to his knack for political blunders, social faux pas and a habit of running the family’s mammoth 250-foot yacht aground or into other vessels. William Waldorf (1848–1919) was a rigidly disciplined intellectual and collector of fine art who eventually immigrated to England. Together, they created the original Waldorf=Astoria, which debuted in 1897 as the world’s most opulent hotel, but their fragile alliance soon shattered as the cousins engaged in a continuing struggle of competitive extravagance that produced such luxurious establishments as the Hotel Astor (William) and the St. Regis (Jack). Yet while they helped to transform the very idea of the hotel into an ostentatious showcase for the lifestyles of the extremely wealthy, the Astor scions maintained the tradition of their dynasty’s founder by also serving as the city’s leading slumlords. William and Jack were as much responsible for the invention of conspicuous consumption as they were for the creation of the grand hotel, and long before the likes of Dennis Kozlowski, the Astor cousins were groundbreakers in the discovery that it’s easier to buy crass than class.

A far-reaching portrait of fin de siècle New York, buttressed by the author’s assiduous research—even though one can only gasp so many times at the excesses, indulgences and vanities of these two antiheroes.

Pub Date: June 5, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03769-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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