The development of literature by and about African-Americans owes its birth to Van Vechten, and Bernard ably brings him to...

CARL VAN VECHTEN AND THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE

A PORTRAIT IN BLACK AND WHITE

We tend to think of jazz as the center of the Harlem Renaissance, but music was only a small part.

In the great migration between the wars, when blacks fled poverty and racial violence in the South, a wealth of organizations sprang to life to foster social and political progress. The publishing industry took a lead role, and Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964) was the impetus that fostered the talents of so many, helping provide a voice to offset long-held stereotypes. Already a published author and close friend of the Knopfs, Van Vechten became a conduit for works of the men and women he met in Harlem, at his well-attended parties and through his work as a dance, theater and music critic. Indeed, Knopf came to rely almost exclusively on Van Vechten’s judgment of works submitted to them. Bernard (English and Ethnic Studies/Univ. of Vermont; Some of My Best Friends: Writings on Interracial Friendships, 2005, etc.), who has devoted years to the study of the Harlem Renaissance, delivers a semester’s worth of knowledge in a smooth, edifying narrative. The available documents and well-preserved correspondence in the James Weldon Johnson Collection at Yale University provided the author information for volumes of work on Van Vechten and the Renaissance he promoted. Bernard’s subject helped establish that collection and donated all his correspondence to it while he encouraged his friends to do the same. His own work, Nigger Heaven (1925), was a bestseller and drew both raves and rants. Some referred to it as a black book written by a white man, while others saw it as an illustration of the power of language in the relation between race and art.

The development of literature by and about African-Americans owes its birth to Van Vechten, and Bernard ably brings him to life.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-300-12199-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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