- Knopf Guide: St. Petersburg
Completely revised and updated
- High Line: The Inside Story of New York City's Park in the Sky
How two New Yorkers led the transformation of a derelict elevated railway into a grand--and beloved--open space
The High Line, a new park atop an ele-vated rail structure on Manhattan's West Side, is among the most innovative urban reclamation projects in memory. The story of how it came to be is a remarkable one: two young citizens with no prior experience in planning and development collaborated with their neighbors, elected officials, artists, local business owners, and leaders of burgeoning movements in horticulture and landscape architecture to create a park celebrated worldwide as a model for creatively designed, socially vibrant, ecologically sound public space.
Joshua David and Robert Hammond met in 1999 at a community board meeting to consider the fate of the High Line. Built in the 1930s, it carried freight trains to the West Side when the area was defined by factories and warehouses. But when trains were replaced by truck transport, the High Line became obsolete. By century's end it was a rusty, forbidding ruin. Plants grew between the tracks, giving it a wild and striking beauty.
David and Hammond loved the ruin and saw in it an opportunity to create a new way to experience their city. Over ten years, they did so. In this candid and inspiring book-- lavishly illustrated--they tell how they relied on skill, luck, and good timing: a crucial court ruling, an inspiring design contest, the enthusiasm of Mayor Bloomberg, the concern for urban planning issues following 9/11. Now the High Line--a half-mile expanse of plants, paths, staircases, and framed vistas--runs through a transformed West Side and reminds us that extraordinary things are possible when creative people work together for the common good.
- Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow
"The stain of Jim Crow runs deep in 20th-century America. . . . Its effects remain the nation's most pressing business. Trouble in Mind is an absolutely essential account of its dreadful history and calamitous legacy." --The Washington Post
"The most complete and moving account we have had of what the victims of the Jim Crow South suffered and somehow endured."
--C. Vann Woodward
In April 1899, black laborer Sam Hose killed his white boss in self-defense. Wrongly accused of raping the man's wife, Hose was mutilated, stabbed, and burned alive in front of 2,000 cheering whites. His body was sold piecemeal to souvenir seekers; an Atlanta grocery displayed his knuckles in its front window for a week.
With the same narrative skill he brought to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Been in the Storm So Long, Leon Litwack constructs a searing history of life under Jim Crow. Drawing on new documentation and first-person accounts by blacks and whites, he describes the injustices--both institutional and personal--inflicted against a people. Here, too, are the black men and women whose activism, literature, and music preserved the genius of their human spirit. Painstakingly researched, important, and timely, Trouble in Mind recalls the bloodiest and most repressive period in the history of race relations in the United States--and the painful record of discrimination that haunts us to this day.
"Moving, elegant, earthy and pointed. . . . It forces us to reckon with the tragic legacies of freedom as well as of slavery. And it reminds us of the resilience and creativity of the human spirit."
--Steven Hahn, The San Diego Union-Tribune
"A chilling reminder of how simple it has been for Americans to delude themselves about the power of race." --The Raleigh News & Observer
- The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma
What do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma's past tell us about its present and even its future? For nearly two decades Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma--through sanctions and tourist boycotts--only to see an apparent slide toward even harsher dictatorship.
Now Thant Myint-U tells the story of modern Burma, and the story of his own family, in an interwoven narrative that is by turns lyrical, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Through his prominent family's stories and those of others, he portrays Burma's rise and decline in the modern world, from the time of Portuguese pirates and renegade Mughal princes through a sixty-year civil war that continues today--the longest-running war anywhere in the world.
The River of Lost Footsteps is a work at once personal and global, a "brisk, vivid history" (Philip Delves Broughton, The Wall Street Journal) that makes Burma accessible and enthralling.
- The Fan Who Knew Too Much: Aretha Franklin, the Rise of the Soap Opera, Children of the Gospel Church, and Other Meditations
A dazzling exploration of American culture—from high pop to highbrow—by acclaimed music authority, cultural historian, and biographer Anthony Heilbut, author of the now classic The Gospel Sound (“Definitive” —Rolling Stone), Exiled in Paradise, and Thomas Mann (“Electric”—Harold Brodkey).
In The Fan Who Knew Too Much, Heilbut writes about art and obsession, from country blues singers and male sopranos to European intellectuals and the originators of radio soap opera—figures transfixed and transformed who helped to change the American cultural landscape.
Heilbut writes about Aretha Franklin, the longest-lasting female star of our time, who changed performing for women of all races. He writes about Aretha’s evolution as a singer and performer (she came out of the tradition of Mahalia Jackson); before Aretha, there were only two blues-singing gospel women—Dinah Washington, who told it like it was, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who specialized, like Aretha, in ambivalence, erotic gospel, and holy blues.
We see the influence of Aretha’s father, C. L. Franklin, famous pastor of Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church. Franklin’s albums preached a theology of liberation and racial pride that sold millions and helped prepare the way for Martin Luther King Jr. Reverend Franklin was considered royalty and, Heilbut writes, it was inevitable that his daughter would become the Queen of Soul.
In “The Children and Their Secret Closet,” Heilbut writes about gays in the Pentecostal church, the black church’s rock and shield for more than a hundred years, its true heroes, and among its most faithful members and vivid celebrants. And he explores, as well, the influential role of gays in the white Pentecostal church.
In “Somebody Else’s Paradise,” Heilbut writes about the German exiles who fled Hitler—Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Marlene Dietrich, and others—and their long reach into the world of American science, art, politics, and literature. He contemplates the continued relevance of the émigré Joseph Roth, a Galician Jew, who died an impoverished alcoholic and is now considered the peer of Kafka and Thomas Mann.
And in “Brave Tomorrows for Bachelor’s Children,” Heilbut explores the evolution of the soap opera. He writes about the form itself and how it catered to social outcasts and have-nots; the writers insisting its values were traditional, conservative; their critics seeing soap operas as the secret saboteurs of traditional marriage—the women as castrating wives; their husbands as emasculated men. Heilbut writes that soaps went beyond melodrama, deep into the perverse and the surreal, domesticating Freud and making sibling rivalry, transference, and Oedipal and Electra complexes the stuff of daily life.
And he writes of the “daytime serial’s unwed mother,” Irna Phillips, a Chicago wannabe actress (a Margaret Hamilton of the shtetl) who created radio’s most seminal soap operas—Today’s Children, The Road of Life among them—and for television, As the World Turns, Guiding Light, etc., and who became known as the “queen of the soaps.” Hers, Heilbut writes, was the proud perspective of someone who didn’t fit anywhere, the stray no one loved.
The Fan Who Knew Too Much is a revelatory look at some of our American icons and iconic institutions, high, low, and exalted.