Monuments: America's History in Art and Memory

Judith Dupre, Author . Random $45 (250p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6582-0

This visually arresting book is vintage Dupré (Churches ; Skyscrapers ). The stylish architectural historian examines 37 monuments (from the Liberty Bell and the Alamo to Oklahoma City) for what they reveal about those they commemorate, those who designed them and those who visit them. Dupré decodes monument symbolism (when a soldier is mounted on a horse, the number of hooves planted on the ground indicates whether the rider survived the conflict being commemorated), and she sheds light on commemoration controversies, such as the 1990s debate over erecting a statue of Arthur Ashe on Richmond's Monument Avenue, which had previously been dedicated to Confederate leaders. She addresses “sites of shame,” like Manzanar National Historical Site (where Japanese-Americans were interned during WWII), that recall events many people would rather forget. The 180-plus black-and-white photos are as absorbing as the text, and additional material, like an interview with a stone carver who worked on the National World War II Memorial in D.C., enriches the volume. The foreword is the only disappointment. This ode to 9/11 begins on a stale note, recalling innocent 9/10 and trotting out clichés like “Monuments are history made visible.” But that's a minor flaw in a lavish, thoughtful tome. (Nov. 6)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!