THE MONIED METROPOLIS

NEW YORK CITY AND THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE AMERICAN BOURGEOISIE, 1850-1896

“New York has taught me to put capital and capitalists closer to the center of modern history,” Beckert writes. His account...

A fascinating history of New York during the late 19th-century, a time when big money was changing the face of the city.

The word “bourgeoisie” doesn’t get much of a workout these days, now that Marxist-tinged analyses of the world have become suspect even within academia. But Beckert (History/Harvard Univ.) employs the term fearlessly to describe New York’s mercantile class, whose members, in the early decades of the 19th century, tended to lead quiet, unostentatious private lives. That class, which included large numbers of traders and ship owners, owed much of its wealth to the international cotton trade, which bound New York to the South (and, in large measure, explains why the city gave only lukewarm support to the Union cause during much of the Civil War). In the postwar era, Beckert writes, the merchants’ power was eroded by a new kind of capitalist, the manufacturer. Many of these newly wealthy industrialists, who profited greatly from the war and worked their way up from the shop floor to ownership, were inclined to more public displays of wealth. Shunned as arrivistes, they nonetheless gained supremacy over the better-established merchants. What is more, they had a stronger grasp of politics, and through various mechanisms they remade city and, later, state government into an arm that served their interests with private legislation and other species of cronyism. The new plutocracy asserted itself with huge mansions, soirees that aped the manners of the European nobility (the author often returns to a fancy dress party at the end of the century, to which dozens of New York’s grandes dames came costumed as Marie Antoinette—whose fate, “they confidently believed, would not be theirs”), and other unsubtle displays of conspicuous consumption. Their arrival on the scene, Beckert insists, added a new dimension to the history of class struggle—and their influence on American politics endures in the age of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

“New York has taught me to put capital and capitalists closer to the center of modern history,” Beckert writes. His account is a dazzlingly successful exercise in doing just that.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-521-79039-5

Page Count: 468

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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