Morris's life of Pre-Raphaelite/Nordic poetry, medievalist arts and crafts, and socialist politics always makes for a readably overstuffed biography, and MacCarthy (Eric Gill, 1989, etc.) addresses each area knowledgeably and stays sympathetic to her hero. As a paragon of both taste and the Left, Morris inspired much hero-worship that carried over into biographies embarrassed by their paradoxical subject: an uncategorizable craftsman innovating through traditionalism, a Socialist and a businessman, a cuckold by his friend and fellow poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. MacCarthy clearheadedly avoids both the hero worship and the embarrassment, keeping up with both his gradual political transformation from neo-Gothic bohemian to committed if idiosyncratic socialist, and his wide-ranging work in architecture, stained-glass, furniture, textiles, printing, et al. MacCarthy's biography takes its personal cue from Morris as a young Oxford student, desperate for camaraderie to direct his energies (even at the price of being ``Topsy,'' his nicknamed buffoonish persona). Topsy's midlife conversion to socialism surprised his Oxford friends, but MacCarthy makes this maturation understandable and keeps his aesthetic and social ideals unblurred. She also paints a deep emotional portrait of Morris's family relations, especially with his daughters, the worshipful May and the invalid Jenny. Unfortunately, she leaves his wife, Janey, at the fastidious distance she cultivated and villainizes Rossetti, who despite his philandering had a complex relationship with Morris. MacCarthy delicately probes other sensitive aspects of his life but partially neglects Morris's personal depths. The volume is illustrated with his best-known creations and rarer ones, as well as everything from cartoons by Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones to socialist handbills and Kelmscott lettering. A well-crafted labor of love, MacCarthy's biography chronicles the epic works of a man who inspired both Shaw and Yeats and continues to inspire today.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1995

ISBN: 0-394-58531-3

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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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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