There are a million stories in the wicked city, and New York: An Illustrated History
contains hundreds of them. From its 17th-century beginnings as a small Dutch colony on the far edge of an empire to its late-20th-century status as one of the world's greatest cities, New York has been home to millions of fascinating people. Take, for example, Edward Hyde, royal governor of New York from 1702 to 1708. Hyde, cousin of Queen Anne, was heartily disliked by the colonists--in part because he was reputed to dress in women's clothing ("I represent a woman, and ought in all respects to resemble her as faithfully as I can," Hyde was reported to have said). Or Al Smith, son of immigrants, a day laborer, who worked his way up the political ladder and eventually became Governor of New York. Or Rosie Safran, a seamstress who survived the horrible fire that claimed 146 of her coworkers at the Triangle shirtwaist factory.
PBS darling Ric Burns (brother of Ken) teamed up with James Sanders and Lisa Ades to produce this spectacular volume and the accompanying 12-hour series. Some 500 illustrations enhance the narrative, while essays by and interviews with prominent New Yorkers-- Robert A. Caro, Carol Berkin, and David Levering Lewis among them--highlight their visions of the metropolis, past and present. New Yorkers or not, readers will enjoy stories of how the city grew and changed over time--such as in 1699, when the old Dutch city wall was torn down and a later-to-be-famous street laid out in its place; or in a 10-day period in 1930, when 14 new floors of the Empire State Building were erected. Along the way, the authors debunk a few myths: the Dutch didn't really pay only $24 for Manhattan, and no immigrant's name was known to have been changed by the Ellis Island inspectors--though the ships' manifests they were consulting may have been incorrect.
Burns and company are clearly enamored of New York, seeing it as "the ultimate city of dreaming and desire, a place of passage and transformation, of possibility and exchange, of mingled cultures and identities." They also see New York, with all its ups, downs, problems, and triumphs, as a microcosm of the modern world. Lavish, thorough, and pleasantly warm, New York: An Illustrated History reminds us that, yes, it's a wonderful town. --Sunny Delaney
From Publishers Weekly
A companion to an upcoming PBS series, this lavishly illustrated history is an engaging and intelligent work in its own right, presenting a coherent overview without ever glossing over thorny historical or political questions. By supplementing their well-researched text with photographs, paintings, newspaper headlines and interviews with historians and social critics, Burns (The Civil War, with Ken Burns) and Sanders have produced a volume that is as attractive as it is perceptive. Arranged chronologically, the book manages to capture some of the diverse elementsAsuch as the immigrant communities, labor unrest, traditional and avant-garde cultures, crime and architecture, among other factorsAthat continue to play important roles in the city's evolution. For example, the section on Greenwich Village, "The Republic of Washington Square," contains a succinct history of the area as a cultural engine, with rare photographs and illuminating quotes from Edmund Wilson and Floyd Dell. The section on the Harlem Renaissance provides a comprehensive analysis of the movement's development and importance, aptly illustrated and contextualized with an interview with David Levering Lewis. Burns and Sanders have successfully marshaled a huge amount of material into a format that is informative and highly entertaining. BOMC History Book Club selection. (Nov.) Cahners Business Information.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.