Thursday, August 28, 2008

Berlin-by David Clay Large

As it goes without saying that the act of writing is extremely difficult, I'll ask the question, "how about reading?" Of the three basic, classic learning criterion, reading seems to be the one that has been shunted to the side. It's my conviction that many people scan, as opposed to read, texts. This is a sad state of affairs, in my opinion. All that said, history texts often warrant no more than scanning. As a person who loves history (easily evidenced by the obsessive collecting bug, the compulsive document search) I find that sad as well. Well written history texts are few and far in between, and when I find one, I heap attention upon it, relishing my time with it in an effort to savor the sublime feelings that arise from it. Berlin is deserving of such hyperbole, in my opinion. David Clay Large's book about the conflict torn and Historically significant city on the Spree River is an extremely compelling one. Large uses fascinating anecdotes and a superbly even handed critical style to give the history of Berlin from the 1870's until 2000. His portrait of Berlin is one that shows a city constantly arising out of Historical flux, rebuilding and reinventing itself, and for the most part finding itself knocked back down again in relatively quick order. The story of Berlin is fascinating and tragic, and Large does a excellent job of telling it. My only minor quibble with his 650 written pages is an anecdote about Johnny Rotten, in which the author accuses him of "[strutting] about in West Berlin, decked out in black leather and swastika tattoos." Rock-n-Roll to David, get your facts straight. Even though Punk was a Pop phenomenon, I think it's safe to say that it too is deserving of historically accurate treatment.
Other than that, this book is an amazing one. Highly enjoyable and recommended without hesitation. If you pick this one up, please give it more than a perfunctory scan.

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