Despite occasionally clumsy exposition, Higher goes a long way toward doing justice to its fascinating subject.




Bascomb debuts with a lively account of how three great New York City skyscrapers were built at the end of the Roaring Twenties.

The author begins with portraits of two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severence, former partners who became bitter rivals. Van Alen was the partnership’s creative heart, trained in Paris and imbued with the modernist spirit. Severence was the consummate businessman, constantly networking in search of the next big commission. Breaking up in 1924, just as the skyscraper was becoming the symbol of preeminence in business and the economy seemed to be on an endless upward spiral, the erstwhile friends by 1929 were executing rival commissions to build the tallest building in the world. Severence’s backers were Old Money, with conservative tastes and a building plot at 40 Wall Street, at the center of the financial district. Van Alen’s patron was self-made automobile tycoon Walter Chrysler, willing to spend whatever it took to erect his personal monument at 42nd and Lexington. The two architects openly sought the “world's highest” crown, each altering their designs several times in order to top the other. In the end, Chrysler and Van Alen won. But neither had taken into account the plans of John J. Raskob, who headed a corporation with defeated presidential candidate Al Smith as its spokesman. One of Chrysler’s fiercest rivals, Raskob acquired the Fifth Avenue site of the Waldorf Astoria for a skyscraper destined to become the epitome of its kind: the Empire State Building, completed in 1931. Bascomb puts all three projects vividly in context, giving broad overviews of the times as well as detailed portraits of the men who designed, financed, and constructed the three buildings even as the crash of 1929 took all the sweetness out of their triumphs.

Despite occasionally clumsy exposition, Higher goes a long way toward doing justice to its fascinating subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50660-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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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

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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