AMAZING GRACE

A LIFE OF BEAUFORD DELANEY

A respectful, by-rote biography of the expatriate African-American painter who was James Baldwin's mentor and Henry Miller's friend. Leeming (English/Univ. of Conn.) reaches into the footnotes of his thick, official biography of Baldwin (1994) to assemble a complete, if brief, chronicle of the person Baldwin called his ``principle witness.'' The conflicted teenage Baldwin met the 40-year-old Delaney at a crucial time; Delaney became the troubled young man's model of artistic possibilities and his teacher. Both were black, came from religious families, and were struggling with their homosexuality. Delaney, however, had successfully made his break with his Knoxville, Tenn., roots to follow an artistic career, reaching a tenuous compromise with his country's prejudices. Although he had arrived in New York at the beginning of the Depression, he managed to establish himself as a painter of psychologically penetrating portraits and vibrant street scenes. Growing into a Greenwich Village guru, he was a close friend of such luminaries as Countee Cullen and Al Hirschfield, and painted haunting portraits of black notables from W.E.B. Du Bois to Louis Armstrong. In 1953 his inability to make a living from his art drove him to Paris, where he lived until his death in 1979. Despite Delaney's famed serenity, Leeming brings out some of the conflicts that he expressed only in his journals: the dilemma he felt as a ``Negro painter'' torn between his individual aesthetic and his ethnic pride, and his alienation from his well-meaning but patronizing white friends. Unfortunately, biographic reticence prevents Leeming from directly addressing Delaney's psychological problems, which spiraled into paranoia and psychosis. He was eventually committed to an insane asylum and remained unaware of the acclaim his work was finally receiving in America. Leeming, a diligent biographer, gets the facts down, but not what made Delaney, in Baldwin's description, ``a cross between Brer Rabbit and St. Francis of Asissi.'' (b&w and color illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 1998

ISBN: 0-19-509784-X

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

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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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