DUNCAN GRANT

A BIOGRAPHY

A full-bodied but strangely affectless biography of the minor English painter and decorative artist. As the Bloomsbury industry continues to expand, it’s rapidly running up against the law of diminishing returns. With superior, if not definitive, biographies already in place for all the major figures, only the secondary and tertiary characters are left—though as second-raters go, Grant is near the top of the pile. But his mild artistic abilities will always be overshadowed by whom he knew and whom he slept with. Having already written a biography of Grant’s fellow painter and lover, Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell (1983), Spalding is well qualified to delve into the emotional complexities of Grant’s life. Drawing on letters and diaries, she details his affairs with the leading men of Bloomsbury, from Maynard Keynes to Lytton Strachey to Vanessa Bell’s brother Adrian Stephen, but the love of his life was Bell. Despite his homosexuality and ongoing affairs and her marriage, they set up house together and had a daughter—who eventually went on to marry one of Grant’s former lovers, David Garnett. Such polymorphousness has long attracted biographers to Bloomsbury, but Spalding also spends a judicious amount of time on Grant’s art. She believes that log-rolling praise from intimates such as Roger Fry and Kenneth Clark, paradoxically, was largely responsible for Grant’s reputation plummeting in his later years. Unquestionably, Grant was a decent copyist and a reasonable colorist with a good sense of line and form, but his style tended to ebb and flow with whatever was in vogue at the time, so that it is hard to pin down anything in his work as definitively “Duncan Grant.” Spalding’s biography suffers from a similar problem. Though she has all the facts, she is never quite able to capture the essence of the man. The only thing missing from these hundreds of exhaustively researched pages is Duncan Grant. (8 pages color, 16 pages b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7126-6640-0

Page Count: 570

Publisher: Pimlico/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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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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