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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In September 1930, when the last piece of its steel structure was riveted into place and an American flag unfurled at its apex, the Empire State Building assumed its position as a symbol of New York's economic might, an emblem of the promise of the modern age, and an embodiment of the human ability to rival the wonders of the natural world. Here is how Mitchell Pacelle, an award-winning journalist with The Wall Street Journal, describes the building in his outstanding first book: "Its profile -- the soaring limestone tower with its streamlined crown that glowed in the twilight like a dream -- was etched into the mind's eye of nearly everyone who had ever laid eyes on it. Was there another structure in the world with more iconic heft?" Yet, that very quality of "iconic heft" that led filmmakers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack to place King Kong atop the building in their classic 1933 film also drew the attention of some other notorious inhabitants of the urban jungle -- aggressive and covetous real-estate moguls like Hideki Yokoi, the Helmsleys, and Donald Trump.
The centerpiece of Pacelle's narrative is his masterful recounting of the struggle among these famously rich and infamously ambitious tycoons for ownership and control of the Empire State Building: Each tycoon desires the building as the ultimate trophy, "the jewel in the crown" of their personal empire, and yet each ends up being thwarted to some degree. The result is a story rich in overlapping betrayals, desperate backstabbing, and familial strife -- all of the small human circumstances that inevitably seem to envelope even the loftiest and most inspiring of achievements. Scrupulously reported and skillfully told, Empire is a book that manages both to educate and to entertain; it is a book sure to delight readers of nonfiction as well as the many admirers of New York's landmark building. (Sunil Sharma)