HIGH STEEL: The Daring Men Who Built the World's Greatest Skyline

Jim Rasenberger, Author . HarperCollins $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-000434-7

Inspired by a New York Times article Rasenberger wrote on ironworkers in early 2001, this historical overview of skyscraper construction in New York City and elsewhere traces the erection of such structures as the Flatiron and Chrysler buildings, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge, the World Trade Center and the lavish new Time Warner Center. This last building is the narrative column around which Rasenberger builds his book, which is largely devoted to "the men who risked the most and labored the hardest"—the ironworkers who put the high-rise steel columns in place. Though his admiration at times seems compulsory rather than genuine, Rasenberger emphasizes the often heroic, death-defying feats ironworkers perform. He also takes account of far-flung communities that breed ironworkers, such as the Mohawk Indians of upstate New York. The chronological history is broken up by alternating sections on the Time Warner Center and often feels less like a single narrative than a collection of vignettes. Rasenberger's principal claim, that ironwork's days are numbered because of the growing reliance on concrete, is often lost in the telling. Even the Time Warner Center was built more with concrete than iron, which is costlier and more vulnerable to heat in events such as the World Trade Center attacks. This recounting, while less than fully absorbing, serves as a valuable history for building enthusiasts and a thoughtful testament to a dying craft that has helped fuel the American economy for more than a century. 21 b&w photos. Agent, Kris Dahl, ICM. (Apr. 1)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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Paperback - 398 pages - 978-0-06-000435-4
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