CLEMENT GREENBERG

A LIFE

A sympathetic biography of the controversial critic who championed the abstract expressionist school as early as 1944, when he anointed Jackson Pollock and a few others as the ``future of American painting.'' The bristly Greenberg, who died in 1994, began writing literary and art criticism and essays in the '30s, while working for the US Customs Service in New York. His classic manifesto ``Avante-Garde and Kitsch,'' published in the Partisan Review in 1939, distinguished high art from popular middle-class diversions, arguing that it was the function of the avant-garde not to experiment but to find a path along which culture can keep moving. In his celebration of artists like Willem de Kooning, Pollock, Morris Louis, and David Smith (and in his sweeping denunciation of Pop art), Greenberg, who in later years wrote for the Nation and Commentary, developed a reputation as a fighter, his power and influence earning him vocal enemies. Rubenfeld, a former East Coast editor for the New Art Examiner, notes the influence on Greenberg's criticism of T.S. Eliot, a sometime Partisan Review contributor, from whom Greenberg may have drawn in formulating his ideas on modern art and its relation to earlier traditions. Usefully locating Greenberg in the context of American art-world politics and letters, and making a persuasive case for his importance, she makes no apologies for the critic, who could be both brilliant and devastating in his opinions, even of his friends' work. His personal life as presented here was a series of fractured relationships. But as Rubenfeld notes, when he committed critically to an artist's work, he committed personally as well, forging close social ties with many of the painters and sculptors whose work he was drawn to, though these positions of influence sometimes led to inevitable questions of conflict of interest. A clear and honest summary of the life of one of the most pugnacious, influential, and original critics of modern art. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-19110-5

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more