CITIES IN CIVILIZATION

Any book this size must pass the hernia test: Is the payoff from reading it greater than the potential discomfort from lifting it? Urban planning expert Hall’s (University Coll., London) magnum opus passes, but just barely. He observes that certain cities, at certain times, pass through “golden ages,” and he seeks an explanation for these brief historical moments. Hall explores the cultural flowering of Athens, Florence, London, Vienna, Paris, and Berlin, each in their prime; considers the productive innovation of Manchester, Glasgow, Berlin, Detroit, Palo Alto, and Tokyo; and describes the merger of art and industry in Los Angeles and Memphis. This survey produces a wealth of information but doesn—t pin down specific variables explaining the rise and fall of great cities, so the indefatigable author seeks out the organizational basis of the urban order in Rome, London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and Stockholm. The empirical description is supported by theoretical analysis drawing upon a wide array of thinkers, and Hall’s ability to remain focused on his initial question through a thousand pages of material is remarkable. A reasonable reader, however, could feel cheated by his conclusion. While recognizing preconditions which can encourage or retard a city’s development, Hall finds that “time and chance happeneth to them all; it is a question of finding the moment and seizing the hour.” To explain that there’s no explanation cannot satisfy. And the failure may reflect an authorial flaw. For Hall, cities are too much the grandest variable in human existence for them to be epiphenomena, so factors such as the rise and fall of nations or shifts in global economic patterns remain at the margin of his analysis. Unfortunately, excluding the variables most likely to be fruitful is a recipe for intellectual frustration. Nevertheless, his exhaustive case studies of cities are commendable. (48 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-394-58732-4

Page Count: 1168

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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