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CITY IN THE SKY: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center

James Glanz, Author, Eric Lipton, Joint Author
James Glanz, Author, Eric Lipton, Joint Author . Holt/Times $26 (428p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7428-4
Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Paperback - 428 pages - 978-0-8050-7691-2
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-4668-6307-1
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This is not a book only about September 11; the towers' collapse begins on number 236 of 337 pages of narrative text. New York Times reporters Glanz (science) and Lipton (metropolitan news) instead deliver a thoroughly absorbing account of how the World Trade Center developed from an embryonic 1939 World's Fair building to "a city in the sky, the likes of which the planet had never seen." In this lively page-turner, intensively researched and meticulously documented, a world of international trade, business history, litigation, architecture, engineering and forensics comes clear—a political and financial melodrama with more wheeling and dealing than Dallas , touched lightly with the comedic and haunted by tragedy. The authors move a Robert Altman–sized cast (engineers, architects, iron workers, builders, demolitionists, lawyers, mobsters, mayors, mathematicians, critics, activists, real estate dealers, biochemists, union organizers, an aerialist, an arsonist) through the design, construction, destruction and memorializing. Faceless entities like the Port Authority acquire names, personal histories and diverse agendas. Bureaucratic reports and public hearings, reduced with clarity and balance, become comprehensible, even readable. The authors are remarkably skilled at telling all without telling too much: a "deadening" 44-page speech by Port Authority official Austin Tobin gets short shrift but a fair account. Their descriptions of new technologies (e.g., "artificial creakiness"), fresh experiments (particularly in wind engineering), complicated financial maneuverings and secret studies become clear to the non-specialist reader. While some superlatives might have been avoided ("the biggest and brashest icons that New York ever produced," etc.), Glanz and Lipton tell this compelling story without becoming overwrought, and with graphs and charts (and 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW ) that contribute immensely to understanding the logistical and technical aspects of the project. This book may be the definitive popular account of the towers. (Nov.)

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