An engrossing foray into architectural history.

BROKEN GLASS

MIES VAN DER ROHE, EDITH FARNSWORTH, AND THE FIGHT OVER A MODERNIST MASTERPIECE

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. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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