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Between the end of World War I and the Crash of 1929, New York emerged as the world's most powerful city in finance, music making, theater, literature. How and why New York attained its now partly-lost eminence is the grand theme of this detail-crammed psychohistory (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 606 pages; $25) by Columbia University professor Ann Douglas. "Douglas' dense, rat-a-tat-tat narrative is full of surprises," says TIME critic John Elson, who notes that the author sometimes gets her details wrong. But Elson says those are minor flaws in an "erudite portrait of a dazzling decade and metropolis."