PositiveThe New RepublicGrabar makes a powerful statement about cities: For all our idealization of architects and cautionary tales about all-powerful planners like Robert Moses, most things get built with little thought and by nonprofessionals.
RaveThe New RepublicMoss’s plague-years diary is one of elation: The once again spooky city was a liberating space that reminded him, as a progressive trans man, what brought him there in the first place. For most of the world, the pandemic was an unremediated crisis. For Moss, it was exactly what New York needed. His account is raw, angry, filled with self-righteous invective against hypernormals (grossly characterized conformists who do not fit into Moss’s tribe), and blasé about the health crisis of Covid-19. It is also perhaps the best book on gentrification written in a decade ... funny and gorgeously written. Moss is self-aware; he knows that he is a scold and killjoy and gives the reader a crash course in how these traits are part of a long tradition of queer social critique ... Less convincing is the cross-class and racial alliance that makes up the Leftovers ... This is a vision of the \'cool people\'; it is not a story about the Bronx cab driver, the nurse from Queens, or the shopkeeper from Borough Park. Those people also stayed during the pandemic and potentially suffered quite a bit, but their narrative is hardly mentioned because they do not recognize themselves in the coalition of Moss’s \'true\' New Yorkers ... At times the analysis is spot on, but it also sometimes devolves to a regrettable form of oppression cataloging, drawing not just on Moss’s working-class background but on his assertion that he belongs as an outsider because he is an \'ethnic white\' of Irish and Italian origin, as if these categories carried intense stigma when he was born in the 1970s. Indeed, the constant bohemian credentialing is tiresome and sometimes cringe-inducing ... What gets lost in this overly broad portrait of outsiderness is not only pertinent economic differences but also a larger sense of solidarity that makes room for \'normies\' who may study at NYU but want to be a public hospital pediatrician, \'bros\' from Nebraska who live in Murray Hill but are teaching math at a public high school, and anyone else who fails to meet bohemian aesthetic categories. The problem is not unique to Moss but a central issue in American politics: stretching the identity categories of marginalization does little to build a broader sense of solidarity or a common mission ... there is something gratifying about Moss’s hatred. It is so pure and bellicose. It is not a dirge for the lost city but a bloodcurdling scream ... For all the limits of Moss’s political vision, the book provides a vivid narrative of hypergentrification at a time when urban rents have produced cities where poor people have nowhere left to go but out.
PositiveThe New RepublicSunbelt Blues is a kind of ethnographic revisit: a check-in with old research subjects to see how things are going. The answer is discouraging ... While Ross completed this book largely before the pandemic, he makes it painfully clear that investors are once again circling distressed homeowners who are behind on their mortgages. They have even acknowledged building up their cash reserves to snap at deals when eviction moratoriums expire. While the book is anchored in the decline of Celebration and the housing chaos of Route 192 just past its borders, the mouse ears nearby cast a big shadow ... The coda to Ross’s adroitly written book focuses on the continued fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Higher housing prices, less job security, and the search for work across state lines may normalize the peripatetic life of weekly motel rentals for the working class priced out of cities.
PositiveThe New RepublicBorchert, through a series of biographical chapters on some of the best-known authors, engrossingly shows how the New Deal recognized art as labor and why that model should be reinvigorated today ... Republic of Detours mobilizes New Deal history to help us imagine what our society would be like if federal tax dollars supported a reserve army of muralists, poets, and oral historians.
PositiveThe New RepublicThis is not the man portrayed in Tom Wolfe’s 1981 book From Bauhaus to Our House, which pilloried Gropius as a bore, concerned only with the elitist project of modern architecture. MacCarthy transforms him from a dull institutionalist...into a stylistic rebel who lived and loved in an exuberant community of artist outcasts that would be scattered across the world after Weimar Germany became the Third Reich. Whereas critics of the Bauhaus have seen it as the harbinger of giant faceless office towers and superhighways slicing through cities, MacCarthy presents the school as a fount of idealism ... Most of all, MacCarthy shows that Gropius’s true legacy was the talent he nurtured in others—I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, Paul Klee, Marcel Breuer, and Wassily Kandinsky, to name but a few ... If, as has been said, the Bauhaus was the ultimate art school, Gropius was the definitive dean.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksWhile Slezkine’s narrative traces the emergence of a new society and its eventual betrayal, his chief theme is the religious nature of Soviet communism. The House of Government was not merely a place for the anointed but a monastery for true believers. And as Slezkine shows, like so many communities of messianic faith, this order succumbed to a witch hunt and the purging of those whose conviction was in doubt ... Slezkine exposes a vast multinational social network, based in Moscow but stretching to Siberia, Kiev, Berlin, and beyond. The lives of those involved and their myriad connections are described in such abundant detail that one can be both overwhelmed and inspired, as one often is by a classic Russian novel.
Robert D. Kaplan
PositiveSlateEarning the Rockies is at its best when Kaplan explains how the ideology of conquest was slowly replaced with the romance of naturalism and Theodore Roosevelt’s conservationism.