RaveNew York Journal of BooksCovering 500 years—from the first Elizabeth to the second—and covering a retinue that always numbered in the hundreds, Tinniswood has his hands full ... While it’s clear, therefore, that there is more to this story than Tinniswood tells or can ever hope to tell, it’s clear as well that he amply, entertainingly, compellingly succeeds in making the case that when it comes to British royalty, it takes a village to make a monarch.
Alice Sparberg Alexiou
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksAlice Sparberg Alexiou’s Devil’s Mile functions as the historical-narrative equivalent of time-lapse photography. Limiting her focus to a small but historically significant slice of New York, Alexiou offers a galloping and exhilarating tour, 400 years in 250 pages. She captures the cultural, social and historical ebbings and flowings as the Bowery progressed: from native footpath, to haven for Dutch and then Knickerbocker gentry, to gang-infested slum, to dangerously wicked playground for the Lower East Side, to Purgatory for the city’s bums, to Whole Foods regentrification.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksMendelssohn’s vivid account of Wilde’s creation of Wilde amounts to a primer on methods of publicity and promotion, methods to be sure firmly rooted in the Age of Barnum (and indeed, P. T. Barnum actually attended one of Wilde’s lectures in order to gauge his potential) ... As an account of the genesis of Wilde’s persona, then, the fact that Mendelssohn devotes two-thirds of her book to one crucial year in Wilde’s life makes perfect sense. But the fact that she largely ignores half that year does not. We learn about the beginning of January through the fourth of July in glorious detail but learn next to nothing about Wilde’s subsequent six months in America ... A fuller exploration of what went into the creation of our icon, as opposed to the Victorians’, would be a valuable addition—or would make for a valuable sequel—to Making Oscar Wilde. Quibbles, these. Making Oscar Wilde succeeds commendably at what it sets out to do: offering a vivid, intelligent look at Victorian celebrity culture through the rise to fame of one of its brightest stars. And that’s something you won’t find elsewhere—not even in Ellmann.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksStacy Horn takes us, institution by institution, on a tour of that hell. She begins, with what by far is the most gripping and informative section of the book, at the northeast end with the Lunatic Asylum ... This brilliantly-realized exposé of the Asylum, however, Horn never quite achieves in her exposés of the Island’s other institutions. Her tour of the island, it becomes clear, is a selective one, selective both by choice and by necessity ... More than this, Horn, it seems, is hampered by the lack of evidence of the everyday cruelties in many of the institutions ... In Damnation Island, therefore, Stacy Horn has given us the short tour of the Island. But what we learn is enthralling; it is well worth the trip.