CITY POET

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF FRANK O'HARA

The first biography of one of American poetry's finest lyricists—whose literary grace and authority, musical sense, and headlong (often foolish) way with life bears remarkable resemblance to the much differently circumstanced Boris Pasternak's. Gooch (Scary Kisses, 1988) follows O'Hara from his Massachusetts Catholic boyhood (son of an alcoholic mother who'd be a cafard to O'Hara all his life) to Harvard (where he was part of the remarkable postwar literary generation that included Creeley, Brodkey, Donald Hall, Ashbery, Koch, Edward Gorey, and more) and then to New York. There, O'Hara not only was (with Ashbery and Koch) the coagulator of the New York School style of poetry, but his art criticism became seminal to the first- and second-generation Abstract Expressionist painters and sculptors of the 50's, a position that elided with ever higher curatorial positions he held at the MOMA until his tragic death at 40, hit by a dune buggy on Fire Island in the dead of night. O'Hara's friendships—homo- and heterosexual—were the very weft of his life: Around him much of the best of midcentury New York art revolved, played, feuded, splintered. Gooch misses none of these social complications, but no scale seems to have weighed the testimonies relatively, and this gives the book a passive and flattened feel: Interviewees come off as talking-head opinion- spouters, all—and none—equally to the point. The paucity of literary appreciation here, of critical eye, is the real disappointment. O'Hara's remarkable poetry is quoted, dated, summarized—but never quite appreciated for its unusual achievements. Literary queen bee—that's what O'Hara comes off as here (which, granted, at his worst he sometimes took himself to be only as well), not the prince of poetry he would more enduringly become. (Fifty-five photographs—not seen)

Pub Date: June 8, 1993

ISBN: 0-394-57118-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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