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Haussmann, or the Distinction

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Haussmann, or the Distinction - , Summary

A stunning, imaginative novel about the great architect of Paris Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who demolished and rebuilt Paris in the middle of the nineteenth century, was the first urbanist of the modern era--and perhaps the greatest. He presided over two decades of riches, peace, and progress in a city the likes of which no one had ever seen before, with boulevards monumentally conceived and brilliantly lit, clean water, public transportation, and sewers that were the envy of every nation in the world. Yet there is a story that, on his deathbed, Haussmann wished all his work undone. "Would that it had died with me!" he is supposed to have said. What is the secret of the baron's last regret? To answer this question, Haussmann tells the story of Madeleine, a foundling who grew up in the magical, chaotic world that Haussmann destroyed; of de Fonce, one of the great artistes démolisseurs who tore Paris down and sold its rubble as antiques; and of a three-sided affair that pits love against ambition, architecture against flesh, and the living Parisians against Haussmann's unbuilt masterpiece, the Railroad of the Dead. Although steeped in history, Paul LaFarge's Haussmann, or the Distinction is a novel not bound by fact; it is an account of the hidden, sometimes fantastical life of the nineteenth century, a work that will make readers think of Borges as well as Balzac; it is a view of cities, of love, and of history itself from the other side of the mirror..

Luminous Airplanes

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Luminous Airplanes - Paul La Farge Summary

A decade after the publication of Haussmann, or the Distinction, his acclaimed novel about nineteenth-century Paris, Paul La Farge turns his imagination to America at the dawn of the twenty-first century. In September 2000, a young programmer comes home from a festival in the Nevada desert and learns that his grandfather has died, and that he has to return to Thebes, a town which is so isolated that its inhabitants have their own language, in order to clean out the house where his family lived for five generations. While he's there, he runs into Yesim, a Turkish American woman whom he loved as a child, and begins a romance in which past and present are dangerously confused. At the same time, he remembers San Francisco in the wild years of the Internet boom, and mourns the loss of Swan, a madman who may have been the only person to understand what was happening to the city, and to the world. Luminous Airplanes has a singular form: the novel, complete in itself, is accompanied by an online "immersive text," which continues the story and complements it. Nearly ten years in the making, La Farge's ambitious new work considers large worlds and small ones, love, memory, family, flying machines, dance music, and the end of the world..

The Night Ocean

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The Night Ocean - Paul La Farge Summary

From the award-winning author and New Yorker contributor, a riveting novel about secrets and scandals, psychiatry and pulp fiction, inspired by the lives of H.P. Lovecraft and his circle. Marina Willett, M.D., has a problem. Her husband, Charlie, has become obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft, in particular with one episode in the legendary horror writer's life: In the summer of 1934, the "old gent" lived for two months with a gay teenage fan named Robert Barlow, at Barlow's family home in central Florida. What were the two of them up to? Were they friends--or something more? Just when Charlie thinks he's solved the puzzle, a new scandal erupts, and he disappears. The police say it's suicide. Marina is a psychiatrist, and she doesn't believe them. A tour-de-force of storytelling, The Night Ocean follows the lives of some extraordinary people: Lovecraft, the most influential American horror writer of the 20th century, whose stories continue to win new acolytes, even as his racist views provoke new critics; Barlow, a seminal scholar of Mexican culture who killed himself after being blackmailed for his homosexuality (and who collaborated with Lovecraft on the beautiful story "The Night Ocean"); his student, future Beat writer William S. Burroughs; and L.C. Spinks, a kindly Canadian appliance salesman and science-fiction fan -- the only person who knows the origins of The Erotonomicon, purported to be the intimate diary of Lovecraft himself. As a heartbroken Marina follows her missing husband's trail in an attempt to learn the truth, the novel moves across the decades and along the length of the continent, from a remote Ontario town, through New York and Florida to Mexico City. The Night Ocean is about love and deception -- about the way that stories earn our trust, and betray it..

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell Summary

By the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas | Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the most influential novelists in the world. He has twice been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The New York Times Book Review called him simply “a genius.” Now David Mitchell lends fresh credence to The Guardian’s claim that “each of his books seems entirely different from that which preceded it.” The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a stunning departure for this brilliant, restless, and wildly ambitious author, a giant leap forward by even his own high standards. A bold and epic novel of a rarely visited point in history, it is a work as exquisitely rendered as it is irresistibly readable. The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland. But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?” A magnificent mix of luminous writing, prodigious research, and heedless imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the most impressive achievement of its eminent author. Praise for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet “A page-turner . . . [David] Mitchell’s masterpiece; and also, I am convinced, a masterpiece of our time.”—Richard Eder, The Boston Globe “An achingly romantic story of forbidden love . . . Mitchell’s incredible prose is on stunning display. . . . A novel of ideas, of longing, of good and evil and those who fall somewhere in between [that] confirms Mitchell as one of the more fascinating and fearless writers alive.”—Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review “The novelist who’s been showing us the future of fiction has published a classic, old-fashioned tale . . . an epic of sacrificial love, clashing civilizations and enemies who won’t rest until whole family lines have been snuffed out.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post “By any standards, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a formidable marvel.”—James Wood, The New Yorker “A beautiful novel, full of life and authenticity, atmosphere and characters that breathe.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR.

The House I Loved

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The House I Loved - Tatiana de Rosnay Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of Sarah's Key and A Secret Kept comes an absorbing new novel about one woman's resistance during an époque that shook Paris to its very core. Paris, France: 1860's. Hundreds of houses are being razed, whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes. By order of Emperor Napoleon III, Baron Haussman has set into motion a series of large-scale renovations that will permanently alter the face of old Paris, moulding it into a "modern city." The reforms will erase generations of history—but in the midst of the tumult, one woman will take a stand. Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the old house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her beloved late husband. And as she delves into the ritual of remembering, Rose is forced to come to terms with a secret that has been buried deep in her heart for thirty years. Tatiana de Rosnay's The House I Loved is both a poignant story of one woman's indelible strength, and an ode to Paris, where houses harbor the joys and sorrows of their inhabitants, and secrets endure in the very walls....

Victorine

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Victorine - Catherine Texier Summary

In 1899, Victorine Texier abandons her small French village, her husband, and her two young children to follow her lover to Indochina. She has fallen for Antoine, her childhood sweetheart, and when his work sends him to Asia she is compelled to go with him, and to leave everything she knows behind. Their five weeks together onboard the ship to Indochina are a kind of honeymoon, a prelude to their liberation in a sultry new world of frangipani trees and monsoons. Victorine gives herself over completely to this exhilarating new life of colonial extravagance — that is, until she encounters her youngest sister, who has also been living in Hanoi and Saigon. This reunion, both joyous and tense, reminds Victorine all too painfully of her life and family in France and forces her to confront exactly what she has done. Vividly narrated through a series of flashbacks, Victorine is a richly textured and passionate story of rebellion, guilt, and unruly love..

Couch

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Couch - Benjamin Parzybok Summary

"Couch hits on an improbable, even fantastic premise, and then rigorously hews to the logic that it generates, keeping it afloat (at times literally) to the end." —Los Angeles Times "Delightfully lighthearted writing. . . . Occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, the enthusiastic prose carries readers through sporadic dark moments . . . Parzybok’s quirky humor recalls the flaws and successes of early Douglas Adams."—Publishers Weekly "The book succeeds as a conceptual art piece, a literary travelogue, and a fantastical quest." —Willamette Week "Hundreds of writers have slavishly imitated—or outright ripped off—Tolkien in ways that connoisseurs of other genres would consider shameless. What Parzybok has done here in adapting the same old song to a world more familiar to the reader is to revive the genre and make it relevant again" —The Stranger A Spring Summer Indie Next Reading List Pick: Top 10 Reading Group Suggestions "Couch follows the quirky journey of Thom, Erik, and Tree as they venture into the unknown at the behest of a magical, orange couch, which has its own plan for their previously boring lives. Parzybok's colorful characters, striking humor, and eccentric magical realism offer up an adventuresome read." —Christian Crider, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL A January 2009 Indie Next List Pick "This funny novel of furniture moving gone awry is a magical realism quest for modern times. Parzybok's touching story explores the aimlessness of our culture, a society of jobs instead of callings, replete with opportunities and choices but without the philosophies and vocations we need to make meaningful decisions." —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA "A lot of people are looking for magic in the world today, but only Benjamin Parzybok thought to check the sofa, which is, I think, the place it’s most likely to be found. Couch is a slacker epic: a gentle, funny book that ambles merrily from Coupland to Tolkien, and gives couch-surfing (among other things) a whole new meaning.” —Paul La Farge "One of the strangest road novels you'll ever read. It's a funny and fun book, and it's also a very smart book. Fans of Tom Robbins or Christopher Moore should enjoy this." —Handee Books "It is an upholstered Odyssey unlike any other you are likely to read. It is funny, confusing in places, wild and anarchic. It is part Quixote, part Murakami, part Tom Robbins, part DFS showroom. It has cult hit written all over it." —Scott, Me and My Big Mouth Benjamin Parzybok on tour: http://booktour.com/author/benjamin_parzybok In this exuberant and hilarious debut reminiscent of The Life of Pi and Then We Came to the End, an episode of furniture moving gone awry becomes an impromptu quest of self-discovery, secret histories, and unexpected revelations. Thom is a computer geek whose hacking of a certain Washington-based software giant has won him a little fame but few job prospects. Erik is a smalltime con man, a fast-talker who is never quite quick enough on his feet. Their roommate, Tree, is a confused clairvoyant whose dreams and prophecies may not be completely off base. After a freak accident fl oods their apartment, the three are evicted—but they have to take their couch with them. The real problem? The couch—huge and orange—won’t let them put it down. Soon the three roommates are on a cross-country trek along back roads, byways, and rail lines, heading far out of Portland and deep into one very weird corner of the American dream. Benjamin Parzybok is the creator of Gumball Poetry, a journal published through gumball machines, and the Black Magic Insurance Agency, a city-wide mystery/treasure hunt. He has worked as a congressional page, a ghostwriter for the governor of Washington, a web developer, a Taiwanese factory technical writer, an asbestos removal janitor, and a potato sorter. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with the writer Laura Moulton and their two children..

Samedi the Deafness

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Samedi the Deafness - Jesse Ball Summary

One morning in the park James Sim discovers a man, crumpled on the ground, stabbed in the chest. In the man's last breath, he whispers his confession: Samedi. What follows is a spellbinding game of cat and mouse as James is abducted, brought to an asylum, and seduced by a woman in yellow. Who is lying? What is Samedi? And what will happen on the seventh day?.

The Railway Journey

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The Railway Journey - Wolfgang Schivelbusch Summary

The impact of constant technological change upon our perception of the world is so pervasive as to have become a commonplace of modern society. But this was not always the case; as Wolfgang Schivelbusch points out in this fascinating study, our adaptation to technological change—the development of our modern, industrialized consciousness—was very much a learned behavior. In The Railway Journey, Schivelbusch examines the origins of this industrialized consciousness by exploring the reaction in the nineteenth century to the first dramatic avatar of technological change, the railroad. In a highly original and engaging fashion, Schivelbusch discusses the ways in which our perceptions of distance, time, autonomy, speed, and risk were altered by railway travel. As a history of the surprising ways in which technology and culture interact, this book covers a wide range of topics, including the changing perception of landscapes, the death of conversation while traveling, the problematic nature of the railway compartment, the space of glass architecture, the pathology of the railway journey, industrial fatigue and the history of shock, and the railroad and the city. Belonging to a distinguished European tradition of critical sociology best exemplified by the work of Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin, The Railway Journey is anchored in rich empirical data and full of striking insights about railway travel, the industrial revolution, and technological change. Now updated with a new preface, The Railway Journey is an invaluable resource for readers interested in nineteenth-century culture and technology and the prehistory of modern media and digitalization..

Virtual Light

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Virtual Light - William Gibson Summary

NEW YORK TIMES bestseller • 2005: Welcome to NoCal and SoCal, the uneasy sister-states of what used to be California. The millennium has come and gone, leaving in its wake only stunned survivors. In Los Angeles, Berry Rydell is a former armed-response rentacop now working for a bounty hunter. Chevette Washington is a bicycle messenger turned pickpocket who impulsively snatches a pair of innocent-looking sunglasses. But these are no ordinary shades. What you can see through these high-tech specs can make you rich—or get you killed. Now Berry and Chevette are on the run, zeroing in on the digitalized heart of DatAmerica, where pure information is the greatest high. And a mind can be a terrible thing to crash. . . . Praise for Virtual Light “Both exhilarating and terrifying . . . Although considered the master of 'cyberpunk' science fiction, William Gibson is also one fine suspense writer.”—People “A stunner . . . A terrifically stylish burst of kick-butt imagination.”—Entertainment Weekly “Convincing . . . frightening . . . Virtual Light is written with a sense of craft, a sense of humor and a sense of the ultimate seriousness of the problems it explores.”—Chicago Tribune “In the emerging pop culture of the information age, Gibson is the brightest star.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Our Riches

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Our Riches - Kaouther Adimi Summary

The powerful English debut of a rising young French star, Our Riches is a marvelous, surprising, hybrid novel about a beloved Algerian bookshop Our Riches celebrates quixotic devotion and the love of books in the person of Edmond Charlot, who at the age of twenty founded Les Vraies Richesses (Our True Wealth), the famous Algerian bookstore/publishing house/lending library. He more than fulfilled its motto “by the young, for the young,” discovering the twenty-four-year-old Albert Camus in 1937. His entire archive was twice destroyed by the French colonial forces, but despite financial difficulties (he was hopelessly generous) and the vicissitudes of wars and revolutions, Charlot (often compared to the legendary bookseller Sylvia Beach) carried forward Les Vraies Richesses as a cultural hub of Algiers. Our Riches interweaves Charlot’s story with that of another twenty-year-old, Ryad (dispatched in 2017 to empty the old shop and repaint it). Ryad’s no booklover, but old Abdallah, the bookshop’s self-appointed, nearly illiterate guardian, opens the young man’s mind. Cutting brilliantly from Charlot to Ryad, from the 1930s to current times, from WWII to the bloody 1961 Free Algeria demonstrations in Paris, Adimi delicately packs a monumental history of intense political drama into her swift and poignant novel. But most of all, it’s a hymn to the book and to the love of books..

How Paris Became Paris

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How Paris Became Paris - Joan DeJean Summary

"This lively history charts the growth of Paris from a city of crowded alleyways and irregular buildings into a modern marvel."--New Yorker At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Paris was known for isolated monuments but had not yet put its brand on urban space. Like other European cities, it was still emerging from its medieval past. But in a mere century Paris would be transformed into the modern and mythic city we know today. Though most people associate the signature characteristics of Paris with the public works of the nineteenth century, Joan DeJean demonstrates that the Parisian model for urban space was in fact invented two centuries earlier, when the first complete design for the French capital was drawn up and implemented. As a result, Paris saw many changes. It became the first city to tear down its fortifications, inviting people in rather than keeping them out. Parisian urban planning showcased new kinds of streets, including the original boulevard, as well as public parks and the earliest sidewalks and bridges without houses. Venues opened for urban entertainment of all kinds, from opera and ballet to a pastime invented in Paris, recreational shopping. Parisians enjoyed the earliest public transportation and street lighting, and Paris became Europe's first great walking city. A century of planned development made Paris both beautiful and exciting. It gave people reasons to be out in public as never before and as nowhere else. And it gave Paris its modern identity as a place that people dreamed of seeing. By 1700, Paris had become the capital that would revolutionize our conception of the city and of urban life..

So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood

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So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood - Patrick Modiano Summary

“Modiano is an ideal writer to gorge on . . . A moody, delectable noir.” — The New Yorker “The best kind of mystery, the kind that never stops haunting you.” — Entertainment Weekly “A work of melancholic beauty . . . Sincere, shattering, magnificent.” — L’Express In the stillness of his Paris apartment, Jean Daragane has built a life of total solitude. Then a surprising phone call shatters the silence of an unusually hot September, and the threatening voice on the other end of the line leaves Daragane wary but irresistibly curious. Almost at once, he finds himself entangled with a shady gambler and a beautiful, fragile young woman, who draw Daragane into the mystery of a decades-old murder. The investigation will force him to confront the memory of a trauma he had all but buried. This masterly novel penetrates the deepest enigmas of identity and compels us to ask whether we ever know who we truly are. “Moody . . . Lyrical . . . A pleasure.” — Kirkus Reviews “A writer unlike any other and a worthy recipient of the Nobel.” — Wall Street Journal.

The Place de la Bastille

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The Place de la Bastille - Keith Reader Summary

Epicentre of the Revolution of 1789, erstwhile bastion of the skilled working-class and centre of radical agitation, along with Pigalle and Montmartre a focus for popular and raffish night-life in the early twentieth century, the Bastille area of Eastern Paris (also known as the Faubourg Saint-Antoine) is now an ethnically and socially mixed quartier which still bears the traces of its previous avatars. In a fascinating tour, Keith Reader charts the history and cultural geography of this unique area of Paris, from the fortress and prison that gave the area its name to the building of the largest and costliest opera house in the world..

The Known World

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The Known World - Edward P. Jones Summary

From Edward P. Jones comes one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory—winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. The Known World tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order, and chaos ensues. Edward P. Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all its moral complexities. “A masterpiece that deserves a place in the American literary canon.”—Time.

The Flirt

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The Flirt - Kathleen Tessaro Summary

Sexy, independent Leticia Vane runs her own lingerie shop and knows just how to make a woman feel beautiful. But not only is love strictly off limits for Leticia, she doesn’t believe it even exists. Meanwhile, as socialite Olivia Bourgalt du Coudray wanders around her exquisite house in Chester Square, she has everything money can buy, except a happy marriage. Luckily, handsome young Hughie Venables-Smythe is discovering a secret new profession — the timeless art of the flirt. It can save a marriage or lift a heart faster than any therapy — only Hughie is something of a wild card. When provocative anonymous notes are delivered to both Olivia and Leticia, events take a delicious turn. Who is flirting with whom? And is flirtation innocent or can it lead to more dangerous territories of the heart?.

Paris

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Paris - Patrice L. R HIGONNET Summary

In an original and evocative journey through modern Paris from the mid-eighteenth century to World War II, Patrice Higonnet offers a delightful cultural portrait of a multifaceted, continually changing city. In examining the myths and countermyths of Paris that have been created and re-created over time, Higonnet reveals a magical urban alchemy in which each era absorbs the myths and perceptions of Paris past, adapts them to the cultural imperatives of its own time, and feeds them back into the city, creating a new environment. Paris was central to the modern world in ways internal and external, genuine and imagined, progressive and decadent. Higonnet explores Paris as the capital of revolution, science, empire, literature, and art, describing such incarnations as Belle Epoque Paris, the Commune, the surrealists' city, and Paris as viewed through American eyes. He also evokes the more visceral Paris of alienation, crime, material excess, and sensual pleasure. Insightful, informative, and gracefully written, "Paris" illuminates the intersection of collective and individual imaginations in a perpetually shifting urban dynamic. In describing his Paris of the real and of the imagination, Higonnet sheds brilliant new light on this endlessly intriguing city..

A History of Reading

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A History of Reading - Alberto Manguel Summary

In this marvelous book, acclaimed around the world, Alberto Manguel takes us on a fascinating exploration of what it means to be a reader of books. A History of Reading is a brilliant reminder of why we cherish the act of reading—despite distractions throughout the ages, from the Inquisition to the lures of cyberspace. He shows us what happens when we read; who we become; and how reading teaches us how to live. He reminds us that we live in books as well as among them—how we find our own stories in books, and traces of our lives. He shows us how our reading habits have developed over the centuries, and how, ever since humans first transcribed their thoughts and deeds on clay and papyrus, the act of reading is itself a part of being human. Alberto Manguel is a lover of reading, and he brings a lover’s delight and enthusiasm to his history of reading. His stories take us across a breathtaking range of time and experiences. From the invention of the reader to Pliny the Younger’s first lip-synch in history; from the moment when Alexander the Great’s conquering army watched, amazed, as their captain read a letter from his mother—but silently—to himself!—to reading clubs in medieval France; from the Great Camel Library of the Grand Vizir of Persia, who trained his camels to walk in alphabetical order, to the ancient delights of bedroom reading and the modern horrors of book burning in Nazi Germany; from cuneiform and codexes to the invention of printing and to Penguins; from the creation of eyeglasses to the hypnotics of hypertext—the story of reading is laid open here for our pleasure..

Planning Twentieth Century Capital Cities

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Planning Twentieth Century Capital Cities - David Gordon Summary

The twentieth century witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of capital cities worldwide – in 1900 there were only about forty, but by 2000 there were more than two hundred. And this, surely, is reason enough for a book devoted to the planning and development of capital cities in the twentieth century. However, the focus here is not only on recently created capitals. Indeed, the case studies which make up the core of the book show that, while very different, the development of London or Rome presents as great a challenge to planners and politicians as the design and building of Brasília or Chandigarh. Put simply, this book sets out to explore what makes capital cities different from other cities, why their planning is unique, and why there is such variety from one city to another. Sir Peter Hall’s ‘Seven Types of Capital City’ and Lawrence Vale’s ‘The Urban Design of Twentieth Century Capital Cities’ provide the setting for the fifteen case studies which follow – Paris, Moscow and St Petersburg, Helsinki, London, Tokyo, Washington, Canberra, Ottawa-Hull, Brasília, New Delhi, Berlin, Rome, Chandigarh, Brussels, New York. To bring the book to a close Peter Hall looks to the future of capital cities in the twenty-first century. For anyone with an interest in urban planning and design, architectural, planning and urban history, urban geography, or simply capital cities and why they are what they are, Planning Twentieth Century Capital Cities will be the key source book for a long time to come..

The Birth of Tragedy

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The Birth of Tragedy - Friedrich Nietzsche Summary

This classic work of creative criticism from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argues that ancient Greek drama represents the highest form of art ever produced. In the first section of the book, Nietzsche presents an in-depth analysis of Athenian tragedy and its many merits. In the second section, Nietzsche contrasts the refinement of classical tragedy with what he regards as the cultural wasteland of the nineteenth-century..