An engrossing foray into architectural history.

The tale of a relationship and the “architectural treasure” it created.

As Boston Globe columnist Beam (The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson and the End of a Beautiful Friendship, 2016, etc.) stylishly lays it out, this is the story of two very smart and strong-willed people and the unique house that came between them. The author begins in 1945 with a dinner party in an elegant Chicago apartment. Edith Farnsworth (1903-1977), an accomplished doctor and researcher, had recently purchased land near the Fox River, an hour southwest of Chicago, where she hoped to build a getaway home. Also at the party was the noted architect Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), who had recently moved from Europe to America. When they met, van der Rohe said, “I would love to build any kind of house for you.” Farnsworth was prosperous, and the architect was ambitious. He had the innovative idea to “build the house of steel and glass; in that way, we’ll let the outside in.” From 1946 to 1947, the two made enjoyable visits to the site, and a close relationship developed. They agreed on a house with floor-to-ceiling glass at an estimated cost of $40,000. However, as Beam writes, a “funny thing happened on the way to building Mies’s glass house. [Architect] Philip Johnson built it first”—but he graciously acknowledged van der Rohe’s influence. By 1949, Farnsworth and van der Rohe “were no longer intimate friends.” Beam diligently chronicles the back-and-forth squabbles over skyrocketing costs that eventually brought the price to $70,000. The architect demanded more money, but Farnsworth had had enough, so she sued him. “Some of the great moments in the history of twentieth-century architecture flew by in the sleepy Yorkville courtroom,” writes the author, whose detailed recounting of the trial may be too much for some readers, but most will enjoy the cultural history aspect of the narrative. They settled out of court. Farnsworth rarely lived in her glass house (though it is now iconic), and van der Rohe became famous.

An engrossing foray into architectural history.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59271-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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