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

PEACOCK & VINE

ON WILLIAM MORRIS AND MARIANO FORTUNY

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 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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