An absorbing inquiry into a legendary artist and his techniques.

THE SHADOW DRAWING

HOW SCIENCE TAUGHT LEONARDO HOW TO PAINT

The science of light and shadow illuminates Leonardo da Vinci’s revolutionary art.

University of Virginia art historian Fiorani’s sparkling second book explores how Leonardo’s love of science informed his art. Intimately capturing the artistic, religious, and cultural landscape of Leonardo’s world, the author traces his development as an artist from his early apprenticeship days to the lessons he learned as he painted his greatest works and up to his posthumous legacy. In his book The Lives, Giorgio Vasari’s influential portrait of Leonardo “discredited” Leonardo’s “science of art,” ruining Leonardo’s reputation for years. Throughout, Fiorani’s detailed attention to Leonardo’s notebooks show how much his interests in art and science were interwoven. He produced a handful of paintings, many unfinished, but some 4,100 notebook pages filled with notations, sketches, and technical and shadow drawings. The author notes that in his late 30s, Leonardo’s interest in the world of art shifted to focus on science and philosophy, especially optics and the “subtle pattern of shadows” on objects. His earliest works were studies of drapery, and his innovative Florentine teacher, Andrea del Verrocchio, taught him to “carefully observe each fold and to capture the effect of shifting light.” Fiorani effectively describes Leonardo’s experiments with paints that allowed him to “achieve an astounding variety of optical effects” in his first solo painting, the Annunciation. With his “stunning” portrait Ginevra, he aspired to capture not just a young woman’s beauty, but also her soul and a “new way of painting.” Adoration, which he left unfinished, “forced him to rethink what he knew and did not know about the science of optics” while Virgin of the Rocks was a “masterpiece of optics.” Last Supper, which began to deteriorate shortly after he finished it, is “perhaps the saddest example of Leonardo pushing experimentation too far.” Mona Lisa remained unfinished as well.

An absorbing inquiry into a legendary artist and his techniques.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-26196-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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