Arnaud’s biography provides a useful corrective and will inspire renewed interest in Cocteau’s work.

JEAN COCTEAU

A LIFE

The first substantial life of the French surrealist writer and artist to appear in English since 1970.

You might not have known that Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) was an angst-y, tormented artist to look at him: he “always tried to put himself forward as happy and detached,” writes French biographer Arnaud (Chamfort: A Biography, 1992), and he had a happy childhood without much drama. Still, as Arnaud remarks, Cocteau wrestled for a long time with his homosexuality, a preference for men that “remained more acted than lived,” no small thing in a time when the law still weighed heavily against same-sex relationships. Arnaud accomplishes several things in this overstuffed life of the writer, artist, and filmmaker. He does much, for example, to correct the emphasis on Cocteau as eccentric artist—he was, after all, a shining light of Dadaism—that comes “to the detriment of the creator.” Focusing closely on Cocteau’s works, Arnaud ventures that he was often at his best as a collaborator, whether encouraging Marcel Proust during the long years of his writing Recherche, even if Proust may have thought of him as “a piece of furniture,” or concocting strange experiments with Pablo Picasso. In the end, Arnaud provides a portrait of a committed, seasoned artist who was, in Ezra Pound’s phrase, a vortex of energy, constantly at work, writing “on invitations, record jackets, cigarette boxes, theater programs, book covers.” If Cocteau was not well-understood in his own time, and often savaged critically, he is unjustly overlooked today. Although, for instance, he was long considered one of the trio of “uncle Jeans” of French film, the others being Renoir and Epstein, many students know him only for Orphée (1950), and although his literary production was steady, he remains known today mostly for his middle-period novel Les Enfants Terribles (1929). Concludes Arnaud, a touch hopefully, “we haven’t yet finished with Cocteau.”

Arnaud’s biography provides a useful corrective and will inspire renewed interest in Cocteau’s work.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-300-17057-3

Page Count: 1056

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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