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Reviews for Modern Man

The life and work of an iconic modernist. In 1920, Swiss-born architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris changed his name to Le Corbusier (1887-1965). The dramatic “single moniker,” writes journalist Flint (Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City, 2009, etc.), “signaled his break with the past…and the embrace of the modern.” The author ably chronicles Le Corbusier’s pursuit of the modern in designs that remained remarkably consistent during his long career. In villas, apartment complexes and public buildings, Le Corbusier conceived stark, concrete structures perched on concrete columns, with open-plan interiors swathed in natural light and containing minimalist furniture, such as the metal tubing and leather chairs designed by a member of his firm. His wife found the ambience dispiriting: It was like living in a hospital, she complained, or “a dissecting lab!” Some clients, although impressed by the theatricality of the imposing architecture, found living within its walls uncomfortable, especially in a villa that became inundated with water after every rain. Le Corbusier had grander ambitions than simply designing for wealthy clients. During World War II, he nimbly allied himself with the Vichy government, hoping to redesign Paris after the war’s destruction; in 1945, he easily—and with no repercussions—switched sides. He envisioned entire cities “with places and buildings for all human activities by which the citizens can live a full and harmonious life.” Constructed rigidly on a grid, with large spaces between buildings comprised of small modular apartments, the cities would include schools, shops and extensive roof gardens representing the natural landscape. Critics asserted that he was blind to people’s real lives and the interactions that created community, but Le Corbusier believed that well-designed density, “a repeatable urban form,” was the overriding need of the future.

Flint’s life of “the original star architect” astutely captures Le Corbusier’s hubris and vulnerabilities and makes a persuasive case for his artistic significance.


-- Kirkus Reviews


Reviews & Praise for Wrestling with Moses

Summer reading picks, Brattleboro Reformer, July 15, 2010

Marvin Olasky, World Magazine, March 27, 2010

"The lady who saved Greenwich Village," Providence Journal, December 24, 2009

WGBH-TV Boston, Greater Boston's Holiday Books selection, December 16, 2009

David Brussat, "Review: Wrestling wth Moses," Providence Journal, December 9, 2009

Paul Goldberger, "The Ten Most Positive Architectural Events of 2009," The New Yorker, December 9, 2009

J.M. Cornwall, "Wrestling with Moses," The Celebrity Cafe, October 19, 2009

Jeremy Gerard, ‘Stink Bomber’ Jacobs Took on Robert Moses With Bagpiper’s Help," Bloomberg, October 13, 2009

Matthew Continetti, "Remembering Jane Jacobs," The Weekly Standard, September 16, 2009

Christopher Turner, "Mother Courage," The Guardian, September 12, 2009

"Jane Jacobs over Robert Moses: The Victory That Keeps On Giving," Jane Holtz Kay, Citiwire, September 11, 2009

"What a city needs," Edward Glaeser, The New Republic, September 4, 2009

" The Q & A: Anthony Flint, author, historian, urban planner," Lynda Hammes, The Economist/More Intelligent Life, September 4, 2009

"She took down a Goliath in Gotham," Chuck Leddy, The Boston Globe, August 31, 2009

"Was Jane Jacobs a saint?" John Barber, Toronto Globe and Mail, August 29, 2009

"Jane Jacobs' War for New York," Tom Condon, The Hartford Courant, August 23, 2009

"Not in My Backyard," Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post, August 23, 2009

"Wrestling with Moses", Steve Weinberg, The Oregonian, August 20, 2009

"Wrestling With Moses," Reviewed by Adam Fleisher, Zocalo Public Square, August 18, 2009

"Wrestling With Moses: How We Saw Our Cities Anew," interview with Leanne Hansen, Weekend Edition, National Public Radio, August 9, 2009

"Public Turmoil, Then and Now," David Warsh, Economic Principals, August 9, 2009

"Wrestling with Moses," interview on The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC-FM, August 7, 2009

"In with the old, out with the new," Brian Bethune, Macleans, August 6, 2009

"When David Fought Goliath in Washington Square Park," Dwight Garner, Books of the Times, The New York Times, August 5, 2009

"Jane Jacobs' Frankensteins," Molly Fischer, The New York Observer, August 3, 2009

"Jane Jacobs Legacy," Howard Husock, City Journal, July 31, 2009

"Wrestling Party Tonight," Meredith Goldstein, The Boston Globe Names page, July 30, 2009

"Not Here, She Said," Vincent J. Cannato, Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2009

"New York: the Prophet," Jason Epstein, New York Review of Books, August 13, 2009

Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses, John King, San Francisco Chronicle, "Place" column, July 28, 2009

Wrestling with Moses by Anthony Flint, Steve Weinberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 26, 2009

Selections from the Five Most Enticing Reads of Summer, New York magazine, July 15, 2009

A New Look at Jane Jacobs versus Robert Moses, Cityscapes, Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, July 10, 2009

Book review: History Book Club, July 7, 2009

Book Review: Wrestling with Moses, Metropolis magazine, July 3, 2009

Scrappy neighborhood activist Jane Jacobs faces off against notorious “power broker” Robert Moses in this history of mid-20th-century New York City urban planning.
Jacobs made her name in 1961 with the publication of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a withering critique of that era’s modernist, rationalist approach to urban planning. Her nemesis, the bureaucratically savvy commissioner Moses, has become a symbol of that approach. Moses razed whole neighborhoods in the name of efficiency and progress to build—among other things—hundreds of drab high-rises and more than 600 miles of highways in and around New York City. Longtime urban-policy journalist Anthony Flint (This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America, 2006) effectively chronicles Jacobs’s life and career, her emergence as an activist and the development of her philosophy that cities should be eclectic and organic and that urban planning must have a light touch rather than a heavy hand. In accessible prose, the author explains the forces that shaped modern-day New York, through the lens of the key battles between Jacobs and Moses—Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village and the Lower Manhattan Expressway. However, as factually precise as Flint’s portraits of both Jacobs and Moses are, it’s too clear from the start where the author’s loyalties lie. Since history has effectively proven Jacobs “right”—her vision for pedestrian-friendly mixed-use neighborhoods is now the gold standard for urban planners—it seems too easy to play her as the quixotic hero against a power-grabbing, heartless Moses. Jacobs is indeed more likable than Moses—and her populism is a more appealing motivation than his paternalism—but both were complicated human beings with worthwhile ideas, and it’s not until the epilogue that Flint concedes as much ... A fun read for lovers of cities in general, New York in particular.

-- Kirkus Reviews

Former Boston Globe reporter Anthony Flint recounts how activist and writer Jane Jacobs stopped the seemingly unstoppable master builder Robert Moses. Beginning in the 1930s, Moses consolidated his enormous power through the administrations of various mayors and governors, revamping the city parks network and constructing a mind-boggling array of projects including bridges, highways, Shea Stadium, Lincoln Center and 10 giant public swimming pools. Although highly skilled at crushing opponents, Moses was eventually outmaneuvered in the 1950s and '60s by Jacobs, whose landmark The Death and Life of Great American Cities was a war cry against urban renewal projects that destroyed existing neighborhoods. Jacobs derailed Moses's plans to run two highways through lower Manhattan (one in what would become trendy SoHo). But, says Flint (This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America), who is now at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Moses's tarnished reputation has been undergoing rehabilitation recently as cities realize the value of reliable infrastructure. Lucid and articulate ... Photos. (July 28)
-- Publishers Weekly, nonfiction reviews, May 25, 2009


“Wrestling with Moses is an epic tale filled with nuanced lessons. Flint is passionate in supporting Jacobs’s once radical but now commonly shared views, yet he deftly leaves room for Moses. This is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the shaping of cities.”
Alex Krieger, professor of urban design, Harvard University

“In this gripping and inspiring story of one woman who galvanized her community against powerful, destructive forces, Anthony Flint gets to the heart of what makes neighborhoods—and cities—thrive.”
Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City?

“Jane Jacobs, the crownless queen of cities, defended New York against the assault that would have destroyed its pattern of the daily life. Wrestling with Moses is a masterly tale of how her mandate endures.”
Jane Holtz Kay, architecture critic for The Nation and author of Asphalt Nation

“Anthony Flint has written a riveting account of a struggle between opposites that forever redefined the American city. With no formal training in urban planning, Jane Jacobs had the audacity to take on Robert Moses and the passion to save old New York from the wrecking ball.”
James L. Swanson, Edgar Award–winning author of the New York Times bestseller Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer

“Beautifully written, Wrestling with Moses is a step back in time to the bohemia of Greenwich Village in the 1960s, when Bob Dylan’s music filled the streets and revolution was in the air. As a woman standing up to power, Jane Jacobs blazed a trail. This is a remarkable book.”
Brad Matsen, author of Titanic’s Last Secrets

“Anthony Flint has not only captured the life and times of the remarkable Jane Jacobs but, more important, he has delineated the amazing cast of characters — politicians, design professionals, neighbors, and citizens — that populated her life and her city. Wrestling with Moses will soon become classic, essential reading for anyone concerned with cities, past, present, and future.”
Eugenie L. Birch, Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education, University of Pennsylvania


Reviews & Praise for This Land

Reviews/Editors Choice, Audubon magazine, January-February 2007

"Exiles from Main Street," review in the Village Voice, December 15, 2006

Planetizen Top 10 Books List, 2007 Edition

Review in Middlebury College magazine

"This Land Examines the Brawl over Sprawl," book review in The Boston Globe October 2, 2006

Review by Alex Marshall in Spotlight on the Region, the newsletter of the Regional Plan Association

Review in Commonwealth magazine Summer 2006

Recommended by The Denver Post June 25, 2006

From the June 2006 issue of The Atlantic Monthly:
"A look at the long odds faced by the "smart growth" movement as suburban sprawl goes unchecked and its negative consequences become increasingly clear."

From the May 15, 2006 Library Journal:
"In this engaging, vivid, and provocative work, journalist Flint (Boston Globe) consolidates years of covering the causes and effects of sprawl (unplanned suburban expansion calling for increased reliance upon cars). ...Written with analytical rigor but also a crafty journalistic eye for the human-interest story that crystallizes an abstract theme, this book merits inclusion in any library and may spark discussion as misguided housing patterns reach crisis proportions." read more...
         --Whitney Strub, UCLA

From the May 28 2006 (Southern New Jersey) Courier Post:
" If you think there's nothing new to say -- or nothing new to do -- about sprawl, think again. This Land, Anthony Flint's thoughtful book about our ceaselessly suburbanizing nation, goes beyond hand wringing and haranguing. It makes practical suggestions on how we can individually and collectively manage America's go-go growth and avoid, in his words, a 'great national train wreck.'" read more...
         --Kevin Riordan

June 2006 Planning magazine -- Planners Library
"Flint asks good questions: Why, since smart growth was not antidevelopment, did it encounter such fierce resistance? And he makes some good observations: "Antisprawl activists say that conventional suburban development is popular because it's pretty much the only thing that's offered. But suburban development does seem to be what an awful lot of Americans want."
Flint knows the issue is important, but he also knows that it's so localized and fragmented that few Americans see it as an issue. " read more...
         -- Harold Henderson

"This important book is spot on in its analysis of America's deepening land-use problems, and refreshingly upbeat in its account of win-win solutions arising around the country. Flint's fingertip knowledge of detail is especially to be admired."
         -- Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, author, The Future of Life

"With evidence growing regarding the impact of density on innovation and economic growth, Anthony Flint's excellent This Land couldn't come along at a better time. It's an essential read for those working to understand and build more vibrant and livable communities."
         --Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class

"A superb feat of reporting and analysis. Our intensifying urban land use wars—most notably, between new movements on behalf of better-planned, more compact growth and those who have mobilized, explicitly or effectively, in defense of sprawl--have rarely seemed more absorbing, and have never been rendered more comprehensibly. For anyone who cares about these issues, a must read."
         -- Alan Altshuler, dean, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

"Among the hundreds of books about metropolitan growth, This Land stands out as an extremely engaging and perceptive chronicle of the current state of the smart growth and new urbanist movements. Highlighting the fundamental American tension between individual and collective purposes, Flint compellingly articulates the challenges ahead."
         --Ann Forsyth, Director, Metropolitan Design Center

"A revealing portrait of how America lives today. His trenchant chronicling of the emerging smart growth movement's challenge to the suburban sprawl ethos is a clarion call for a national conversation about how the country should grow."
         --Ben Bradlee Jr. , author and former Deputy Managing Editor of the Boston Globe