The Power Broker

(Robert Moses and the Fall of New York) (by Robert A. Caro, 1974) That this brick of a book (well over a thousand pages) about public infrastructure is so compelling is due to, first, its traverse of key decades in the rise of America (1920s to the 1960s); second, the author’s awesome depth of research and keen grasp of his subject; and third, the subject himself: the most famous public official in New York (perhaps America), Robert Moses (18 December 1888 – 29 July 1981), a humanities man, without engineering qualifications, who yet singlehandedly matched the Pharaohs and the Romans in…

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The Faucian Bargain

(With apologies to Christina Rossetti and her “Goblin Market”) Morning and evening Folks heard the coolies cry: “Come buy our pangolins, Come by, come buy; Bats and lemurs, Bits of Uyghurs, Human femurs, Embargoed seegars – All ripe together In wintry weather,- Morns that pass by, Fair foreign bats fly; Come by, come by; Pass the wet market.” ♠ Evening by evening Beyond the fence and bollards, Shi Zhengli bowed her head to hear, Her Wuhan boss, who hollered “Lady, veil your blushes Crouch in your office like a cave In the cooling weather; With cautioning arms and clasping lips,…

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Hamilton – The Musical

(Directed by Amy Campbell, Lyric Theatre, Sydney, 2021) (Reviewed by Margo Jakobsen) Masked-up and entering the Sydney Lyric Theatre in an orderly fashion, I was eager to see if the musical justified the buzz. Some already knew, a couple of fans wearing period costumes of their own. Others were clearly familiar with the moments. For example, a cry went up at the ‘immigrants get the job done’ line and Brent Hill’s crassly, juvenile King George, made a popular and delicious contrast with the rawest emotions of Chloe Zuel as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza. The play ended with her enigmatic gasp. Amazing…

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Love You Long Time: The Earl of Louisiana

“The Earl of Louisiana” by A. J. Liebling (1961) Liebling’s witty and nostalgic book shows us something of the old time politics and how it seems fresher and more vibrant than the sterile and shrill shenanigans of today. True, he had to travel to Louisiana (where the citizenry don’t expect corruption, they demand it) and he had a ringside seat to the Long legacy (the famous ‘Kingfish,’ Huey Long, Governor from 1928 to 1932 and a U.S. Senator until his death by gunfire in 1935, had been followed by younger brother Earl, Governor from 1939 to 1940, 1948 to 1952,…

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The Unmaking of a Mayor

All smiles; Candidates Beame, Buckley & Lindsay

By William F. Buckley, Jr (1966) New York may well be the greatest city in the world. The Varnished Culture loves it, as we have said again and again and again and again. But we are unlikely to have loved it in 1965. Then, as erudite Tory gadfly Buckley pungently puts it in his floridly verbose and fascinating account of that year’s Mayoral election, “You can’t walk from one end of New York to the other without a good chance of losing your wallet, your maidenhead, or your life; or without being told that white people are bigoted, that Negroes…

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