MODERN TIMES, MODERN PLACES

A sweeping, ambitious examination of sea changes in human perception and interpretation over the past 100 years, from Oxford professor Conrad (A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera, 1987, etc.). The author admits that his account heavily favors the first half of the 20th century. Although the thematically organized chapters march in roughly chronological order, in many, Conrad devotes dozens of pages to an artistic trend as played out in pre- WWII decades, then tacks on a few paragraphs zipping us through its manifestations in the postwar years. His essential subject is the assault of high modernism on the received wisdoms of the past. As he depicts our century’s most daring painters, writers, composers, architects, and directors (abetted by their peers in science and apocalyptic politics) challenging conventional notions about the representation and even the essential nature of physical, social, and psychological reality, two central points emerge. Abstraction, Conrad suggests in his most interesting passages, is not just an artistic strategy, but a response to the increasingly abstract nature of modern life, experienced at an accelerating pace and accessorized with ever more complex technologies as disorienting as they are indispensable. His second principal theme—the loss of individual identity within the urban crowd, totalitarian political movements, and consumerist mass culture’seems more clichÇd. Indeed, there isn—t much new material here, as Conrad rounds up the usual artistic suspects (surrealism, dadaism, cubism, serialism, atonalism: name your favorite, and you—ll find it) and takes readers to such oft-visited sites as turn-of-the-century Vienna, Moscow in the rosy 1920s heyday of Soviet idealism, and 1990s Tokyo, paragon of the ersatz, virtual-reality world we now inhabit. Nonetheless, he capably integrates massive amounts of information into a smoothly entertaining chronicle. Scholars may regret the lack of original insights, but this accomplished and very thorough round-up of our century’s most important cultural trends is perfect for the serious general reader. (166 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 3, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-40113-X

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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