A measured, careful examination of the celebrated illustrator’s life and art, both fused in the crucible of his family. All families have their nuclear myths and secrets, but few have as many as the famous Wyeths. Michaelis (The Best of Friends, 1983) explores the effects of those kept secrets as they traveled down through generations, influencing first parent, then child. Although this volume functions as a biography of the famous man who illustrated Robinson Crusoe and The Last of the Mohicans, it also doubles as a case study of the intimate link between the artist and his mother—a domineering, depressed, emotionally volatile woman. Henriette (Hattie) Wyeth so idealized the past’she refused to leave her childhood home—that she cultivated a perpetual state of emotional loss. As her favorite son, Convers (N.C.) shared her sentiment, her —homesickness.— But in later years, that melancholy sometimes expressed itself as a lingering sense of failure. Yet N.C. was a prodigious illustrator, a recorder of the West at a time when the country hungered for images of vastness and freedom. In his pursuit of powerful imagery, the young artist worked a cattle roundup in eastern Colorado with a group of men known as the Hash Knife outfit and completed a series of paintings that cinched his career as an illustrator. And yet he longed to be thought of as a real artist, to paint —the big picture.— It never came. Michaelis charts his professional rise and personal crises with much detailed attention, but somehow Wyeth never comes to life. Stripped of his myth, the artist becomes a curiously banal figure, a mama’s boy who sacrificed much of his independence for familial approval and financial gain. Michaelis leaves no Wyeth neurosis unexplored, but his deliberate analysis—while infusing the text with a necessary skepticism’strips it of vitality. (32 pages color, 94 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-42626-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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