The Colgate Scene
July 1999
Table of contents

Morningside Heights: A History of Its Architecture & Development
By Andrew S. Dolkart '73, Columbia University Press, New York, 1998. 505 pp.

by Eric Van Schaack

This is a gem of a book for those interested in the history and architecture of New York City. It is a highly detailed study of the architectural development of Morningside Heights, the "Acropolis of New York," in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and while nearly half of the book is devoted to the planning of Columbia, Barnard and Teachers College, there are also chapters devoted to the other educational and religious institutions in the area, as well as the residential buildings that grew in the wake of institutional expansion. The comprehensiveness of this book is unmatched by any previous publication, and students of urban history will be indebted for a long time to the author's thoroughness and dedication.

     Each institution is introduced by a brief historical sketch, and the details of land purchase, financing and building history are presented in meticulous detail. Of particular interest is the story of what the author rightly calls "one of the most dramatic and awesome progressions of architectural space in America": the South Court and Low Library complex designed by Charles Follen McKim, one of America's finest architects.

     The book concludes with a short afterward that chronicles the near death of Morningside Heights. The dismal history of post-World War Two deterioration and the proliferation of the "excruciatingly brutal" buildings of the 1950s and 1960s makes for painful reading, but the author is sure that "a safe community where people want to live" has finally been re-created. Perhaps he's right. After all, if George Stephanopoulos, President Clinton's former advisor, was willing to pay over half a million dollars for a two-bedroom cooperative on Riverside Drive at 114th Street in 1997, the neighborhood can't be too bad.

Van Schaack is professor of art and art history emeritus

Statistics in Sport
By Jay Bennett '72, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998. 312 pp.

by Mike Donlin '98

For anyone whose first inclination is to rip open the paper for the sports page, or is an ESPN SportsCenter fanatic, Jay Bennett offers a work that legitimizes that affinity in the academic world. Bennett uses his expertise and that of several other scholars to offer a disciplined analysis of the world of sports statistics.

     As the editor of this text, Bennett has accumulated a number of essays from statisticians spanning the globe on the statistical queries associated with American football, basketball, cricket, soccer, golf, ice hockey, tennis, track and field, and he relates his own study of baseball.

     Statistics have been an integral aspect of the enjoyment of baseball since Major League baseball standardized them in 1903. Bennett takes into account statistics that rate player value, changes in the game over time, situational effects on scoring runs, strategy, records and other topics. He pays particular attention to the rating of player value, for the value of each player has been debated through-out the history of the game. Bennett takes into account typical baseball variables to account for possible statistical factors such as temperature, stadiums and handedness of the pitcher. He illustrates the statistical theories of baseball beyond the boxscores on the sports page.

     Bennett's book offers an academically challenging, comprehensive survey of statistical applications in sports that can supplement any statistics course, but it may also be of interest to the common fan.

Donlin is assistant director of athletic communications
A Dangerous Profession: A Book About the Writing Life
By Frederick Busch, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1998. 245 pp.

Fred Busch, Fairchild professor of literature, has an enduring love affair with great books and here he brilliantly communicates his passion to us all. Busch reveals his own -- at times agonizing, at times thrilling -- experiences of writing 23 books (two that were never published). He warns against political correctness and, in so doing, inspires us to rediscover the extraordinary talents of such writers as Melville, Dickens, Kafka and Graham Greene.

     With humor and irreverence, Busch hones in on the irresistible urge for the writer. To deny the urge, Busch explains, would prove more dangerous than to write -- which, it should be told, can pretty much leave you near dead. He identifies the rollercoaster ride of failure and success, the emotional burden and support of the spouse, and the money as "a letter from the world to an author about his work." He also delights in the creation of the perfect phrase.

     Busch celebrates what literature can ineffably impart about our own lives. In these piercing essays, he demonstrates that we as a culture ignore the fundamental truths about fiction only at our own peril. With keen ruminations that recall the critics of yore -- Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling and Irving Howe -- Busch reveals how the literature of our past is the key to our survival in the future.

St. Martin's Press

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