Excellent biographies of Freud and some contemporaries.



A richly contextual look at Freud’s escape to London.

A lifelong resident of Vienna, Freud had no intention of leaving when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. In the end, he left because a team of admirers convinced him it was necessary. They persuaded Nazi authorities to let him go and got the reluctant British government to accept him and his entourage, 16 people in all. Though veteran journalist and author Nagorski delivers a riveting page-turner, German troops don’t enter Austria until Page 230, and Freud leaves on Page 254. Few readers will complain once they realize that the narrative is a fine biography of Freud. The author pays close attention to his subject’s early life and struggles and the development of psychoanalysis, which, focused on childhood sexuality and the unconscious, enraged as many as it fascinated and made Freud an international celebrity by 1900. Nagorski doesn’t ignore Freud’s early followers (Jung, Adler), many of whom who were out of the picture by the 1930s, but he maintains a sharp focus on a small group who remained loyal, again delivering complete, satisfying biographies that don’t emphasize the rescue. Perhaps the most significant of these characters was the Welsh physician Ernest Jones, Freud’s “most fervent disciple in the English-speaking world." Jones personally lobbied the British government, which, like most governments at the time, was unwilling to accept refugees from Nazism. Other members were Anna Freud, his youngest daughter, who became a leading child psychoanalyst but also devoted herself to his care throughout his long, ultimately fatal battle with cancer; Marie Bonaparte, a wealthy Parisian acolyte and analyst; William Bullitt, U.S. ambassador to France and a former patient and intense admirer; and Max Schur, Freud’s personal physician. The oddball addition Anton Sauerwald, a Nazi bureaucrat assigned to confiscate Freud’s assets, grew to admire and protect him.

Excellent biographies of Freud and some contemporaries.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982172-83-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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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 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

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Totally enthralling, masterful, and passionate, this book should garner serious consideration for a variety of book prizes.

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A majestic biography of “history’s most creative genius.”

With many exceptional popular history books under his belt, Isaacson (History/Tulane Univ.; The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, 2014, etc.) is close to assuming the mantle currently held by David McCullough. Here, Isaacson takes on another complex, giant figure and transforms him into someone we can recognize. The author believes the term “genius” is too easily bandied about, but Leonardo (1452-1519), from the tiny village of Vinci, near Florence, was “one of the few people in history who indisputably deserved—or, to be more precise, earned—that appellation.” He was self-taught and “willed his way to his genius.” With joyous zest, Isaacson crafts a marvelously told story “of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical.” Like a child in a candy store, Isaacson often stops to exclaim; he shares his enthusiasm, and it’s contagious. For the author, the starting point are da Vinci’s notebooks, all 7,200 pages, the “greatest record of curiosity ever created.” Da Vinci’s groundbreaking, detailed drawings charted the inner worlds of the skull, heart, muscles, brain, birds’ wings, and a working odometer, along with doodles and numerous to-do lists. In his iconic Vitruvian Man, completed when he was 38 and struggling to learn Latin, “Leonardo peers at himself with furrowed brow and tries to grasp the secrets of his own nature.” Isaacson is equally insightful with the paintings, of which there are few. The Last Supper is a “mix of scientific perspective and theatrical license, of intellect and fantasy.” Regarding the uncompleted Mona Lisa, he writes “never in a painting have motion and emotion, the paired touchstones of Leonardo’s art, been so intertwined.” As Isaacson wisely puts it, we can all learn from Leonardo.

Totally enthralling, masterful, and passionate, this book should garner serious consideration for a variety of book prizes.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3915-4

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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