A gripping history of New York

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Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919. By Mike Wallace. Oxford University Press; 1,196 pages; $45 and £35.

NEW YORK has never been a city to do things by halves. And so it is perhaps not surprising that on New Year’s Eve, 1897, the metropolis became—overnight—twice as large as any other city in America, and the second-largest city in the world. “Consolidation”, as it was called, united New York and Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island under the new blue-and-white flag of Greater New York. “Greater Gotham” traces, at both epic and intimate scale, the ramifications of that consolidation until just after the end of the first world war.

If nearly 1,200 pages seems excessive for a book that covers a mere 22 years, perhaps a little history of the book itself is in order. In 1999 “Gotham: A History of New York City” was awarded the Pulitzer prize, and rightly so; in it Mike…Continue reading

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Personal pronouns are changing fast

NOT so long ago a man could be jailed in Texas for sex with another man. In 2015 a county clerk in Kentucky was jailed for refusing to certify the marriage of two men. Gay rights in America proceeded at an extraordinary rate between Lawrence v Texas (2003), in which …

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Giorgio Vasari, the man who created art history

Vasari made craftsmen into stars The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art. By Ingrid Rowland and Noah Charney. Norton; 432 pages; $29.95 and £23.99. TOWARDS the end of his life Michelangelo Buonarroti, the most famous artist of the Italian Renaissance, began burning his drawings. He did …

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Esther Kinsky muses on a river in England

Esther Kinsky goes with history’s flow River. By Esther Kinsky. Translated by Iain Galbraith. Fitzcarraldo; 368 pages; £12.99. To be published in America this autumn by Transit Books. IN HER post-war childhood beside the Rhine, the narrator of Esther Kinsky’s third novel learns that “every river is a border.” Flowing …