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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be taken in by the title and dust jacket . . .
I thought this was going to be an interesting and informative historical account of life in London's Soho district in the first half of the 20th century. Which is exactly what it is. But it's also an academic text with over 70 pages of notes and references at the end, plus a 25-page bibliography. So don't be taken in by the low-brow title and dust jacket design. "Nights...
Published on 14 May 2012 by R. Stewart

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much to add to what Mr/Ms Stewart has written...
...but would wish to quote from Matthew Sweet's review in the Guardian of 18/05/2012 which ,in my view hits several nails right on the head.

'there is something fundamentally amiss with this book. Possibly because it has been so long in the writing, possibly because its author is based on a campus in Baltimore'
and
'More fatally, however, she has...
Published on 18 Oct 2012 by Colin


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be taken in by the title and dust jacket . . ., 14 May 2012
By 
R. Stewart (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nights Out - Life in Cosmopolitan London (Hardcover)
I thought this was going to be an interesting and informative historical account of life in London's Soho district in the first half of the 20th century. Which is exactly what it is. But it's also an academic text with over 70 pages of notes and references at the end, plus a 25-page bibliography. So don't be taken in by the low-brow title and dust jacket design. "Nights Out" is a rewarding read, but not an easy one. It's a hard book written in highly complex US academic language, containing difficult sociological theory and exposition surrounding a story of cosmopolitan Soho society.

There are good illustrations. Below one, showing a market stall with a hanging display of silk stockings, the caption reads: "Moholy-Nagy spotlights a Berwick Street stocking stall as a fetishistic sign of modern female desire and a barrier/screen between buyer and seller". In the background behind the stall you can see the street number of the building at 104 Berwick Street. Judith R Walkowitz doesn't know this, but at the moment the photo was taken, my Grandfather and Grandmother, the local pub landlords, were almost certainly inside 104 Berwick Street (the City of London pub) serving drinks to their regular clientele of stallholders, shopkeepers, tailors, dressmakers, restaurant workers, office workers, sex workers and spivs.

I don't have the smallest objection to an academic treatment of Soho. I found it interesting and thought-provoking. But it would be useful for Ms Walkowitz to bear in mind that to my grandparents and to most other inhabitants of Soho, a stocking stall was nothing more and nothing less than a stall selling stockings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swinging, 27 Feb 2013
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reader 451 - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nights Out - Life in Cosmopolitan London (Hardcover)
What's not to like in a book that is essentially about food and sex? Walkowitz's Nights Out can be analytical at times, but it is mostly fun and interesting, and it is far more straight-talking in style than most academic works in the genre. (I do see my fellow reviewer's point on this website, but this is meant as serious history after all.) It could even have been, to my taste, a little more theoretical in the conclusion, where the author might have addressed more explicitly the many tensions her book unearths around the term cosmopolitan: the thrill and pride Soho generated as a place mirroring Britain's imperial reach and worldwide draw, and at the same time its regular condemnation as sleazy and dangerous.

Nights Out is indeed hard to classify. It is neither cultural nor social nor local history, yet it is all three with a dash of political narrative, and gender and race history added in. In her book, Walkowitz takes the reader through Soho's transformations from the late nineteenth century to the immediate WWII aftermath. The point is that Soho was exceptional: a foreign slice out of a predominantly British London and an area where much that was otherwise taboo was somehow tolerated, and yet at the same time, because it was such an odd place, it was also a mirror to changing British mores and attitudes. But mostly Nights Out is an excuse to tell good stories: the 'prudes on the prowl' campaign against the Empire Theatre music hall, the rivalry between fascist and anarchist Italian restaurateurs of the 1930s, or the story of Soho's first strip-tease joint, the Windmill Theatre, its struggle against contemporary censorship, and its wartime triumph. It also makes surprising and intriguing points about such subjects as the politics of decency, the margins of racial tolerance in early twentieth century Britain, and Soho's fluctuating economic fortunes. Beyond the appeal the book should have to any Londoner curious about his or her city, this is an earnest and engaging piece of cultural enquiry.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much to add to what Mr/Ms Stewart has written..., 18 Oct 2012
This review is from: Nights Out - Life in Cosmopolitan London (Hardcover)
...but would wish to quote from Matthew Sweet's review in the Guardian of 18/05/2012 which ,in my view hits several nails right on the head.

'there is something fundamentally amiss with this book. Possibly because it has been so long in the writing, possibly because its author is based on a campus in Baltimore'
and
'More fatally, however, she has produced a study of Soho nightlife apparently unpolluted by personal contact with anyone who has ever experienced it'

and finally
'Dancing, we are told, was "a potent symbol of modern urban kinesthesia" and "a cultural metaphor for urban flux and syncopated movement". Its professional practitioners "publicised iconoclastic bodily idioms that troubled corporeal norms of nation, gender, sexuality and class". I'd love to read a passage like that back to the nonagenarian actor Jean Kent - who, as a teenager strutted the stage of the Windmill in a body-stocking decorated with telephone numbers - just to watch her roll her eyes.'
Reading it is like switching on a the TV in anticipation of an amusing, informative programme packed with personal memories but find that you are watching one of the Open University's more impenetrable and turgid productions.
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Nights Out - Life in Cosmopolitan London
Nights Out - Life in Cosmopolitan London by Judith R. Walkowitz (Hardcover - 7 Feb 2012)
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