Seaman’s frequent thesaurus-leaning renders her portraits overpainted, but despite its awkward turns, this is a decidedly...

IDENTITY UNKNOWN

REDISCOVERING SEVEN AMERICAN WOMEN ARTISTS

Vital portraits of forgotten women artists that aim to celebrate their lives and work and to establish their permanent standing within the canon of contemporary art.

With impressive research, Booklist editor Seaman (Writers on the Air: Conversations About Books, 2005, etc.) curates a fine retrospective on the history of women in the male-dominated world of 20th-century art. Inspired by the carelessness with which scholars would identify group photographs of artists—famous men named, women overlooked—the author chronicles her subjects’ lives in lengthy essays that fall gently between biography and scholarly criticism. Louise Nevelson, Gertrude Abercrombie, Loïs Mailou Jones, Ree Morton, Joan Brown, Christina Ramberg, and Lenore Tawney each led rich lives of passionate pursuit, all while managing the uneven expectations hoisted upon midcentury wives and mothers. This fine selection of artists lends the book both cultural and technical diversity. Jones, an accomplished black painter often associated with the Harlem Renaissance, studied under Rodin in Paris and embraced her African heritage while facing racial prejudice at home. Tawney worked exclusively in fiber, weaving tapestries in New York City while friends Agnes Martin and Robert Rauschenberg worked nearby. Abercrombie, queen of the Chicago jazz scene and painter of mesmerizing works, appears in photographs alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins. Ramberg’s sensual graphics can be found not only in analyses of the Chicago Imagists, but also in the pages of Playboy in the 1970s. Seaman exuberantly portrays each highly accomplished woman as the inspirational force she was, and she does a service by bringing them back into contemporary discourse. Unfortunately, the author too often lets her excitement carry her away, running lists of adjectives and too many descriptions on top of one another. This results in clumsily executed passages—e.g., Brown’s “slapped, sloshed, slashed, layered, kinetic canvases” and Abercrombie’s “bewitching, enigmatic, elegant, awkward, eerie, funny, clever, sad, anguished, teasing and playful” paintings.

Seaman’s frequent thesaurus-leaning renders her portraits overpainted, but despite its awkward turns, this is a decidedly important and long-overdue showcase (two 16-page color inserts).

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62040-758-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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