A broad and transporting canvas, as redolent of social nuance and detail as the pieces of cutlery on a Victorian table. (60...




An entertaining survey of the table, Babylonian to Edwardian, examining the political and social forces that shaped what appeared on it.

“The meal and everything connected with it has been and, to a very large extent still is, a vehicle determining status and hierarchy—and also aspiration—no matter what pattern of society prevails,” British historian Strong (The Cult of Elizabeth, 2000, etc.) writes. From way back when, conviviality has been a cornerstone of civilization, though in this case keystone may be more apt, as Strong concentrates on upper-crust eating. Each chapter revolves around an archetypal feast, including the Greeks’ banquets (“expressions of equality—equality, that is, between members of a distinct group sharing the same values, and also political power”), the Roman convivia (tense efforts to marry personal frugality with lavish hospitality), and the Dark Ages’ uncouth revels (“the main purpose of barbarian feasting was to get drunk”). For each epoch, Strong has found a work of literature (or a wide selection) that captures its essential tone: the dramatic spectacles of the 13th century, which introduced form and color to the table; the ritualism of Renaissance events at which “super-abundance and luxury [were] the sole indicators of political power and status”; and the loosening of the corsets at 18th-century court dinners, where “the atmosphere was one of high fashion, flirtation, wit, and gossip.” In each case, the author carefully draws the connections between what happened at the table and shifts in social power—for instance, “the division between an upper class that ate meat and a peasant class denied it,” made explicit “through the imposition of restrictive game laws”—while he also pays attention to the evolution of etiquette, furniture, place settings, interior decoration, and attendant amusements.

A broad and transporting canvas, as redolent of social nuance and detail as the pieces of cutlery on a Victorian table. (60 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-100758-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 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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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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