A well-researched skeleton key with which to unlock some of Dalí’s many mysteries.



A bright, accessible biography that connects the dots between Salvador Dalí’s surrealist masterpieces and their visual references.

“The secret of my influence has always been that it remained secret,” Dalí once said, as if to tempt writers like Brown and Isbouts to attempt to crack his enigmatic body of work. Here, the authors aim to divine the “root of Dalí’s enduring popularity,” proposing that the artist’s appreciation of baroque and old master paintings has solidified his timelessness. Dalí developed a construct called the “paranoiac-critical method,” a term he used to describe his exploration of the “hidden visuals” of his subconscious. The authors address dormant erotic themes that haunt the artist’s paintings, but they also frame classical visual motifs as being similarly embedded in the artist’s mind. Just as a contorted, fleshy figure may signify the artist’s sexual hang-ups, two figures from an 1850s Jean-François Millet painting reappear throughout Dalí’s oeuvre like a recurring obsession. He understood that in order to excel as a surrealist, he would need to master the real. “While all of his contemporaries moved forward into the mists of an uncertain abstract future,” write the authors, “Dalí remained wedded to realism, to the palette and technique of the Old Masters as well as 19th-century academic artists.” Though his “allegiance to the realism of the Old Masters” is often obvious, the authors develop each connection with an informed depth that renders their subject as a deeply academic painter interested in more than just melting clocks, flying tigers, and burning giraffes. Two essays by Brown at the end of the biography offer wild new interpretations of Dalí paintings, as the author superimposes Dalí iconic motifs onto masterpieces by da Vinci, Michelangelo, and others. These claims are captivating but convoluted and feel incongruous with the rest of the book. Perhaps the authors work better as a pair.

A well-researched skeleton key with which to unlock some of Dalí’s many mysteries.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948062-66-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Apollo Publishers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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