Grand Central deserves a deep history as good as the World Trade Center got with James Glanz and Eric Lipton’s City in the...

GRAND CENTRAL

HOW A TRAIN STATION TRANSFORMED AMERICA

A middling account of the architectural splendor that is Manhattan’s Grand Central Station.

“Modern time began at Grand Central,” writes New York Times urban affairs correspondent Roberts (A Kind of Genius: Herb Sturz and Society's Toughest Problems, 2009, etc.), an aperçu he repeats a few times in his paean to what is certainly America’s definitive, if not greatest, railway terminal. The author observes that it was the need of the new railroads to observe an established schedule that resulted in standardized time—no news to readers of Wolfgang Schivelbusch, that great historian of technology, but a useful gauge all the same in explaining why a railroad station should merit our attention. There are other reasons, which Roberts attentively enumerates: In the instance of Grand Central, which indeed pioneered standardized time and has lived through a few incarnations since ground was broken for the modern structure 110 years ago, it contains the world’s largest piece of Tiffany glass, to say nothing of “the largest sculptural grouping in the world” and a ceiling that famously invokes the vastness of the firmament. Roberts closes his rambling, almanaclike narrative with an account of where the ceiling painter went wrong; apparently, railroad officials explained that “the celestial mural represented God’s view.” There’s nothing wrong with an assemblage of oddments and answers to common questions, as any trivia buff will tell you, but at times, Roberts’ book resembles an infodump of semidigested notes; this is nowhere more true than in the section on Grand Central in popular culture. Still, the book is inarguably populated by a fascinating cast of characters, from the barons of the late Gilded Age to Jackie O.

Grand Central deserves a deep history as good as the World Trade Center got with James Glanz and Eric Lipton’s City in the Sky (2003). This isn’t it, though railway-history buffs may enjoy this book.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4555-2596-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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