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TILT : A Skrwed History of the Tower of Pisa Hardcover – January 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743229266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743229265
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,128,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on October 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One thing I need to mention right up front: if you are looking for a very detailed architectural/engineering sort of book (a la Ross King's "Brunelleschi's Dome" and "Michelangelo And The Pope's Ceiling), you are going to be disappointed with "Tilt." Mr. Shrady gives you the structural basics - why the Tower started to tilt, how a recent "team" was able to decrease some of the tilting in order to "shore up" the Tower, etc. - but the book is mostly a cultural history, with the Tower at the center of a spiderlike web of information. The author gives you some Pisan history - its rise as a maritime commercial power as it provided transportation and supplies during the various Crusades; its final decline after a crushing naval defeat at the hands of Genoa in 1284 (which resulted in the 13th century joke: "To see Pisa, you must now go to Genoa"); the humiliation of the entire city being sold to the Visconti of Milan in 1399 and (apparently speculation in real estate is not a modern concept) being sold again, this time to Florence, in 1405; etc. Mr. Shrady does explain that, due to interruptions, the Tower took about 200 years to complete; it's made of marble; and it's basically a "column made up of columns." The book is full of much interesting information. For example, during the "Romantic Age" the Tower became a popular place for self-destruction ( eventually the authorities came up with a regulation that no fewer than 3 people at a time could climb to the to top of the bell tower. This was meant to stop individual and "couple" suicides). We also learn that Mussolini was embarrassed by the "Faulty Tower.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MJN76 on October 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Shrady's "Tilt" is a well written account about Pisa's war torn history and the famous Tower that would take hundreds of years to complete amidst turbulent times.
Shrady does a good job dispelling the myths surrounding the Leaning Tower, the greatest being that the Tower was some great architectural error. No error at Pisa, just soggy ground! Also. Galileo has always been associated with the Tower of Pisa, but Shrady discusses how Galileo probably never climbed it.
Unfortunately, Shrady tends to focus on the city of Pisa for the bulk of the book. Certainly, the history of the city is important and it does relate to the Tower, but one tends to assume that the book would discuss Leaning Tower more, and this is not the case. The ending is somewhat abrupt. I was hoping for detailed discussion on the renovation of 1999, and it seems as if Shrady could have expanded on it.
(The book's cover is rather brilliant: The top and bottom are cut on angles so that when placed upright, it appears to "tilt"! Nice!)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Okay, I admit I was suckered in purely by the marketing strategy of this book--the constructing of the book itself at a tilt to highlight the fact that this is a book about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I appreciate a well- and uniquely-constructed book. They are works of art themselves. However, it's all meaningless without the words inside.
Fortunately, Shrady has written a volume worth reading. As a physics teacher, I often have cause to tell the story of Galileo and his motion experiments at the Leaning Tower. (Despite the fact that these experiments are likely the stuff of fiction and legend.) Shrady discusses these experiments in history of the tower.
More interestingly, however, he describes the construction of the tower and the fact that it tilted almost from the start of its construction as did many contemporary structures. Medieval architecture just wasn't up to the task of predicting in advance what buildings were capable of being effectively constructed. He also discusses the many fascinating attempts to fix the tower which, more often than not, did nothing or made things worse.
Finally, we get the story of the modern attempt in the 1990's to fix the tower which has been, as far as can be determined successful--in angle of tilt has been reduced and seems to be fixed in place. The tower is once again open to tourists after having been closed for nearly a decade. All in all it is a fascinating story.
If there is a weakness in this book it is the fact that Shrady has fallen into a common trap: this story (as he told it) didn't quite come up long enough so there's a bit of repetition here to try to bulk things up. And it still ends up being a slim volume. Still, it's worth the couple hours time it take to read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael C. Browning on April 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Finally: A book you can just about judge by its cover. Nicholas Shrady has done an amusing and literally slantendicular history of one of Italy's most famous landmarks, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
It's collectible for its design. Somebody at Simon & Schuster has come up with the delightful idea of shaping the book in a trapezoidal cover, so that it literally leans. You would need a wooden shim to make it stand upright on your bookshelf. The optical illusion carries over into the text: Even though the type is set quite upright, the odd butterfly design of the open pages makes the word-columns seem to lean, ever so slightly outward, on both sides.
Shrady dangles us over the tower's parapet, traces its history in lively fashion. The Leaning Tower is one of architecture's most appealing monuments. Its very imperfection endears it to us. It's like us: fallible, teetering forever over ruin. My old Greek professor, William Calder III, confided to me that on a 1962 visit he was seized with acrophobia at the top of the tower and had to be blindfolded and led down again.
Thanks to the soggy ground underlying Pisa's "Campo dei Miracoli," the Field of Miracles where the town's spiritual life was centered in the 12th century, the tower began to lean almost as soon as it was under construction. Begun in 1173, when Pisa was at the height of its power and prestige, the tower started tilting after only three stories were completed.
It is precisely this defect which makes the Leaning Tower so interesting. Just as 18th century ladies would sometimes paint a "beauty spot" on their cheeks to make their faces more alluring, the Leaning Tower owes its appeal to its curious deviation from true vertical. Were it perfectly upright, it would only be a pretty mass of columned marble.
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