A popular biography of Russia's most famous composer, with particular emphasis on Tchaikovsky's sexual orientation and the controversy surrounding his death. How can you actively dislike a book honest enough to refer the reader on page one to the current ``standard survey of Tchaikovsky's work . . . David Brown's monumental `critical and biographical study' ''? Nonetheless, anyone fortunate enough to have access to the four-volume Brown study or even Brown's slighter Tchaikovsky Remembered will not need this new effort. Biographer Holden (Laurence Olivier, 1988, etc.) weighs in on the side of those scholars who assess the composer's guilt over his homosexuality as the dominant theme of his emotional life. Convinced that his death at age 53 was the result not of cholera (the official explanation) but of suicide brought on by fear of official exposure as a sodomist, Holden even sides with those who believe that Tchaikovsky was condemned to self-destruction by the verdict of a ``court of honor'' made up of his old law school classmates. This may be, although the biographer admits that the evidence is not conclusive and that even if Tchaikovsky's conduct had become known to the tsar, the sort of punishment and ruin that befell Oscar Wilde cannot be automatically assumed. What, if anything, all this tabloid-worthy detail adds to a listener's appreciation of Tchaikovsky's ravishing music or the prodigious quantity of his artistic output is unclear. Despite the author's stated desire to connect the music to the composer's suffering, little of real intellectual nourishment is offered. A list of ``Recommended Recordings'' is so lacking in cogent annotation as to be virtually worthless. The basic facts are here and it's not badly written, but this is not the kind of artist's biography that fulfills its primary function: sending the reader back to the music with eager ears and new insight.

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42006-1

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1996

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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 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...


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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