0912_harvard_s

Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950 | by Mo Lotman | Stewart Tabori & Chang | 240 pages | $50

Some books just grab the gift shopper by the lapels and scream "Give me! They'll love it!" Graphic-designer/writer/actor/musician Mo Lotman's mostly photo chronicle of Cambridge's own little center of the universe does just that — around here anyway. Not only is it an appropriate present for anyone alive who ever lived in or went to school in the Square's orbit, it's a spirited and fond chronicle of that fabled intersection's evolution from the post-war student village that John Updike, in his one-page contribution to the book, called "down-to-earth, if not downright grubby" to the energetic, possibly-too-slick-and-clean, high-rent district it is today.

Yes, no matter when you knew the Square, you can thumb through Lotman's book and regret the loss of things you attached to when you were callow. This is not a bad thing to experience, and the author's running commentary ties it together with even-handed credibility. The Pogo Riot? Bogart at the Brattle? Lynyrd Skynyrd on the Cambridge Common? Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight? Gilda Radner visits the Lampoon? The Pit scene? The Tasty closes its doors? If you remember it, you'll likely relive it here.

The book is the result of extensive photo research (in which this newspaper cooperated extensively) and a lot of detailed fact checking. (Did you know that Elsie Baumann of the departed Elsie's Lunch's name was really spelled Else?) In all, it's a fittingly eccentric tribute to a mercurial touchstone.

— Clif Garboden

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