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

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. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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