Famous names and juicy stories, served up with literary elegance.



Distinguished journalist, novelist and biographer du Plessix Gray (Simone Weil, 2001, etc.) turns her descriptive and analytic powers to the legendary lives of her glamorous, Russian-born mother and stepfather.

Only child Francine was often sidelined growing up in the towering, narcissistic presence of the former Tatiana Iakovleva of St. Petersburg, who later gained fame as Saks Fifth Avenue’s hat designer, and Tatiana’s debonair second husband, Alexander Liberman, who rose through the editorial ranks at Condé Nast to become second in command to owner Si Newhouse. Du Plessix Gray writes about her parents with wary diffidence, fulfilling with reluctance her filial duty as biographer while making lively work of it. Most fascinating are the stories of old-world ancestors, aristocratic artists, and intellectuals like Tatiana’s father, an engineer who designed theaters for the czar; and her uncle Sasha, dashing explorer, linguist and celebrated artist who brought his niece out of revolutionary Russia to modernist Paris. There, teenager Tatiana apprenticed with a hat-maker while attracting notable suitors such as poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Ever the opportunist, Tatiana made a better match with aristocratic French diplomat Bertrand du Plessix, though they were estranged after Tatiana ruined his career prospects with social faux pas in Warsaw. Bertrand went missing in action while working for the Free French, allowing Tatiana and her lover Liberman, a Russian-Jewish artist schooled in England, to head for New York with young Francine in tow to start a new life. Expanded from a New Yorker article, du Plessix Gray’s generous, astute study paints two compelling, Machiavellian personalities. Tatiana and Alex, stars of the émigré community, ascended the New York social ladder by dint of sheer personality and hard work, astutely using and dropping friends as they went. They gave little thought to the psychic health of their pampered young charge, who responds as an adult by running hot and cold by turns while depicting their glamorous, casually destructive life together.

Famous names and juicy stories, served up with literary elegance.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 1-59420-049-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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 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...


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?