Saturday, February 26, 2011

Foulkes, Julia L.. To the City: Urban Photographs of the New Deal.

Temple University Press. 2011. c142p. bibliog.. illus. index. ISBN 978-1-59213-998-9 (paper). $24.95. ISBN 978-1-59213-997-2 (cloth). $74.50. ISBN 978-1-592213-999-6 (Adobe Digital Edition PDF e-book). $24.95. Google eBook. $14.72.

As the United States was transformed from a rural to an urban nation during the 1930s and 1940s, many individuals were lured to cities, which became destinations of hope, opportunity, and renewal. (pp. 3-4) Photographers participated in this urban migration that was as much a movement of peoples as a shift in the locus of the American imagination. (p. 5) In this generously- illustrated publication, showcasing more than 100 halftone photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA)/Office of War Information (OWI) project along with extracts from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) guidebooks and oral histories, Foulkes, an Associate Professor of History at The New School (PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and the author of Modern Bodies, corrects the commonly held view that the FSA/OWI photographers only were concerned with documenting rural life in the 1930s and 1940s. She shows that the “propulsion to the city” was an equally important theme in their works, many of which captured views of cities, their inhabitants, and happenings. Featuring images by notable photographers such and Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Gordon Parks as well as those by lesser- known ones, Foulkes illuminates the changes in landscapes, habits, and aspirations that the march to American cities encompassed. Dividing her publication into five chapters, organized around the broad themes of intersection, traffic, high life/low life, the city in the country, and citizens, she includes images of intersections, roads, street corners, cars, traffic signs, lights, people, trains, buses, buildings, houses, public places, parks, theaters, stores, newsstands, nightclubs, dance halls, entertainment venues, bus stations, highways, motels, restaurants, summer camps, homes, suburbs, meetings, campaigns, picket lines, demonstrations, support for the war effort, parades, flags, and more. The cities represented span the geographical area of the United States from New York in the North, to New Orleans in the South, San Francisco in the West, and Washington, D.C. in the East. Photographs taken in more than thirty places are compiled by the author in a collection that captures the increasing urbanization of the United States, its cultures, and peoples, who lived in cities, suburbs, and towns throughout the country. Nicely-presented, thoughtfully-written, well-argued, and sufficiently-documented, this easy-to-read, engaging book, consisting mostly of photographs and comprising the series Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy (ed. Zane L. Miller, David Stradling, and Larry Bennett), will be of significant interest to general readers, students, scholars, and others. It is highly recommended for many public, academic, and special library collections. Review copy. Availability:, Barnes &, Temple University Press (distrib. by University of Chicago), Google Books.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Parvaiz, Kashif. Russia’s Prestige: Historical Architecture.

Outskirts Press. 2010. c412p. bibliog.. illus. ISBN 978-1-4327-6611-5. $34.95. B004DERHDW (Kindle Edition e-Book). $12.99. Outskirts Press e-Book. $5.00.

In this generously- illustrated publication (more than 200 black-and-white reproductions), which is intended to serve as the “starting place” for the “study of Russian architecture” (Foreword, ii), Parvaiz, who owns a construction firm located in Brooklyn, NY (Riyaan Developers), takes readers on a historical tour of Russian architecture from medieval times (988 C.E.) to the present. In eight chapters, organized chronologically, the author describes structures built during various time periods and shows how they reflected the nation’s state of affairs. He presents a wide variety of buildings, including Russian Orthodox churches, gates, kremlins, monasteries, convents, palaces, squares, monuments, prisons, dormitories, hotels, government edifices, and apartment buildings. At each chapter’s end, Parvaiz provides brief biographies of prominent architects of the era and a glossary of seemingly unfamiliar terms used in the chapter. After chapter eight, the author sets forth three additional sections showcasing the synagogues and the religious buildings of Buddhist and Islamic denominations in Russia as well as the stylistic periods of Russian architecture. While Parvaiz’s text may be characterized as easy-to-read, “rich, compelling” (Publisher’s press release), and “evocative” (Foreword, ii), it may need to be better presented. Firstly, the last three sections of this book may be incorporated into the first eight chapters. Secondly, the architects’ biographies and glossaries may be consolidated as appendices. Architects’ names and glossary terms may be boldfaced in the text when they first appear, thereby alerting readers to their entries. Thirdly, this publication’s reproductions should be enlarged and presented in color, whenever possible. Fourthly, this book’s illustrations ideally should reference their sources in their captions or a list of illustrations with photographic credits should be included. Fifthly, a back-of-the book index and a selected bibliography that separates textual sources from photographic ones are crucial. Sixthly, footnotes or endnotes may be necessary, due to the relatively “enigmatic” (Foreword, i), unpublished (Author’s courtesy interview sheets) aspects of Russian architecture and its history. A detailed chronology would be welcome. Seventhly, chapters may need to be distinguished better in terms of their layouts and by means of numbered, clearly-delineated chapter headings. Finally, all grammatical, spelling, and/or typographical mistakes should be corrected. This book will be of interest to students, travelers, art lovers, general readers, history aficionados, and others. In light of the aforementioned, some libraries may want to carefully consider this publication. Review copy. Availability:, (Kindle edition), Barnes &, Outskirts Press Bookstore