Strike Up the Band: New York City in the Roaring Twenties

Reaktion. Jun. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781789148565. $27.50. HIST
Crisp (Madrid: Midnight City) and Stewart (Madrid: A Literary Guide for Travellers) serve up a delicious taste of what was a special time in a distinguished place: the 1920s in New York City. Their book shows that much of today’s New York skyline and vibe has origins in the 1920s. For example, in 1928, the original location of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Fifth Avenue was sold for an estimated $20 million and demolished to make space for the Empire State Building; its construction began in 1930. In this book, the authors’ special gift is their ability to bring flavor to the period by invoking the jazz scene, speakeasies, and tenement conditions by utilizing great sensory details. They have a knack for finding the right details to illuminate the ethos of the era, whether it is the specifics of the art deco design of the Chrysler Building, where construction started in 1929, or the corruption scandal involving Mayor Jimmy Walker.
VERDICT This highly recommended book bears comparison to Frederick Lewis Allen’s Only Yesterday. For general readers seeking a broad understanding of the decade and New York or scholars needing a reference point for this combustible era.
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