Heartfelt and accomplished, but not a page-turner.

THE LOVELIEST WOMAN IN AMERICA

A TRAGIC ACTRESS, HER LOST DIARIES, AND HER GRANDDAUGHTER’S SEARCH FOR HOME

Landscape architect Gaston traces the life of her grandmother, a Jazz Age “It girl” gone wrong.

The author uncovers a family history long obscured by secrets and lies. Rosamond Pinchot was a New York socialite plucked from not-quite-obscurity by famed producer/director Max Reinhardt, who in 1923 discovered the tall, striking 19-year-old aboard a cruise ship and quickly established her as a Broadway star. She became a nationally known figure, appearing in advertisements and tracked by pundits. Gaston paints a dynamic portrait of her grandmother, making liberal use of Pinchot’s youthful diaries to reveal a privileged, conflicted girl chronically struggling with what she called “the Cinderella feeling,” a euphemism for the depression that would eventually lead to her suicide and subsequent near-disappearance from family lore. In lapidary though occasionally overheated prose, the author deftly juggles multiple chronologies and personal reminiscences to limn Pinchot and her bounder of a husband, “Big Bill” Gaston, their well-bred milieu and the various celebrities of the period that she knew. The effort and execution are admirable, but Pinchot was not a significant artist, or even, based on the evidence here, a particularly interesting person; it’s questionable whether general readers will much care about this story. It functions well as a window into a largely vanished social and cultural structure, but readers may have the nagging feeling of sitting through a protracted examination of a stranger’s family album.

Heartfelt and accomplished, but not a page-turner.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-085770-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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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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