PEACOCK & VINE

ON WILLIAM MORRIS AND MARIANO FORTUNY

Although brief, this is an inspiring homage that forges illuminating connections between two dynamos.

An impassioned dual appreciation of two 19th-century creators who turned their lives into art.

In this amply illustrated extended essay, novelist Byatt (Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, 2012, etc.) juxtaposes two artists, one well-known and one less so. Besides being virtually synonymous with his style of design, William Morris (1834-1896) is known for his own writings and his association with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) was an Italian fashion designer whose brilliant dresses and gowns earned him a lasting name in high art circles. In Remembrance of Things Past, Proust dressed his character Albertine in a Fortuny gown; Isadora Duncan and Eleanora Duse danced in them, and, decades later, Susan Sontag chose to be buried in one. Although the two men were born generations and worlds apart and did not intersect, for Byatt, both embody the idea of constant creativity and workmanship. They were artists and artisans; the world was their studio; and neither was ever restricted to a single means of expression. Morris was almost as famous for his homes—the Red House and Kelmscott Manor—and gardens as for his books and designs. He was also skilled at calligraphy, dyeing, painting, paper-making, tapestry, and engraving. Fortuny was a photographer and maker of lamps and a lighting artist for the stage, and he designed his own reading desk and took out more than 50 patents. Morris was a devotee of nature while Fortuny was devoted to the female form, but both had rigorous and highly ordered imaginations. They challenge Byatt to look deeper and express more. “Reading Fortuny and Morris together,” she writes, “made me think very hard, and with great pleasure, about the need to make representations of the outside world, and about the need to hand these on and change them.”

Although brief, this is an inspiring homage that forges illuminating connections between two dynamos.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94747-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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