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Terrific May Reads:  "The Triumph of Modernism," "The National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways", "Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts", and "Einstein: His Life and Universe"

Book Review

 

We were fortunate enough to interview Hilton Kramer for our oral history "It Happened in Manhattan" and include in our book not only his wise and witty input regarding the art scene of mid-20th century New York City but his impressions of the larger cultural scene of that time and place as well. His reminiscences  illuminated that transformative period; at the same time, his ability to stand back and place events within their cultural context brought particular currents of the era vividly to life. Now, in "The Triumph of Modernism"  (Ivan R. Dee, $27,50, 384 pages), essays the former art critic of the New York Times wrote over the past twenty years reveal  Kramer's prodigious and spirited intellect. Far-reaching discussions of modernism from its early 20th century beginnings to its post-modern status comprise both a history and critique of modern art while  grounding artistic phenomena in the context of their time and place, incorporating political, economic, and social influences. Highly Recommended.

The third edition of "The National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways" (National Geographic, $25, 464 pages) is a testament to the pleasures of encountering the scenic splendors of America far from the Interstates and strips studded with fast-food eateries and box stores. Illustrated with 350 photographs and maps, it is a virtual trip across the country that is guaranteed to awaken stirrings of wanderlust and propel even the most reluctant traveler to experience the majestic wonders and small town delights from behind the wheel of an automobile. Highly Recommended.

In "Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts" (Norton, $35.00, 876 pages), the cerebral, provocative, at times acerbic, and often hysterically funny Clive James presents an encyclopedia of people who interest him. They are alphabetically arranged, beginning with the beautiful Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and ending with the doomed Austrian writer Stefan Zeig. In between are figures as famous as Sigmund Freud and Duke Ellington, but also some less well known persons like Ernst Robert Curtious and Georg Cristoph Lichtenberg.  Each is the subject of an essay set in the context of  a century marked by the horrors of fascism and communism. Clive James' insightful and incisive analysis, his brilliant prose, his breath-taking knowledge of world events, intellectual themes, artistic developments, and philosophical undercurrents combine with a powerful humanism in this extraordinary work by a writer and thinker one would expect no less from. Highly Recommended.

Walter Isaacson's "Einstein: His Life and Universe" (Simon & Schuster,  $32.00, 675 pages), based on newly released letters of the famed scientist who not only came up with the formula for the speed of light but ushered in the notion of "relativity" as a measurement of so many aspects of life, is highly readable and happily accessible to the non-scientist. In its seamless combination of the personal and scientific, the biography evokes Einstein's essential humanity, his morality and his never-ending sense of wonder.

Highly Recommended.

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Web: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~frommer/travel.htm.

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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