Good fun for nonspecialists, but aficionados will want more substance. (16 pages b&w photos)

MARIA CALLAS

AN INTIMATE BIOGRAPHY

A serviceable account of the star-crossed diva—but it has much competition.

Perhaps the greatest prima donna of them all, Callas rose to stardom despite a horrific upbringing. Evangelia Callas, the stage mother from hell, was determined that her daughter would reap the money and social status that fate had denied her. She alienated Maria from her loving father and pimped Maria’s sister as a mistress. All this was acted out against the terrible backdrop of German-occupied Athens. Evangelia’s determination was not misplaced, however. Maria, although pimply and overweight, showed phenomenal talent from a young age. Owing to excellent training, great intelligence, fine acting abilities, and a limitless capacity for work, Callas eventually became the best-known opera singer in the world. Sadly, she did not enjoy success for long. Her voice deteriorated when still quite young. Manipulated and exploited by many (especially by her lover Aristotle Onassis), her career was over by her mid-40s and she was dead of a drug overdose at 53. Edwards (Ever After, 2000, etc.) tells Callas’s story efficiently and readably. There is, however, a dated, sensational quality to her writing, reminiscent of scandal sheets of years past. She also engages in that hoary British tradition of making fun of the nouveau riches of America, as if Albion has never been graced with that species. An air of sloppiness and haste pervades: needless repetitions of opera plots, and astonishingly poor word choices (she twice confuses “enervate” for “energize,” and she writes that Robert Kennedy’s assassination occurred “at a fund-raising affair”). Or consider this howler: “designer Piero Tosi (named for an ancestral forebear, the seventeenth-century castrato).” Edwards is a storyteller, not a cultural analyst. Once Callas is cremated and the last scandal is dealt with, she gives us a single perfunctory paragraph commenting on Callas’s impact and then ends it, rather like a college term paper written the night before.

Good fun for nonspecialists, but aficionados will want more substance. (16 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26986-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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

NIGHT

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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