Wynne employs all the devices of an expert roman policier.

I WAS VERMEER

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY’S GREATEST FORGER

A spectacular story of vengeance and fraud told with verve and style by British journalist Wynne, translator to English of Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles, 2000, among others.

The incredible story of how Dutch painter Han van Meegeren avenged himself on supercilious art critics by becoming an expert forger of Vermeer and fooling the Nazis conveys a valuable lesson in how we see, notes Wynne in this methodical, suspenseful tale. A largely self-taught artist with reactionary views out of sync with modernist fashion, van Meegeren, from the city of Deventer, obsessively taught himself the arcane knowledge of 17th-century painting (the use of pigments, ores and metals) while studying architecture in Delft. At first hailed as a promising young talent, he was passed over as a fogey, then left his first wife and scandalously married Joanna Oelermans, former wife of esteemed art critic Karel de Boer. Moving from art restoration to copying the masters, van Meegeren devoted himself to forgery, and decided to choose as his “victim” Vermeer, an artist long neglected with a paucity of output whose rediscovery was largely due to the writing of French critic Théophile Thoré in the mid-19th century. Working out of a house he purchased with Joanna in Nice, van Meegeren stripped a second-rate period canvas, employed only materials Vermeer would have used, reproduced the craquelure to make it completely convincing, and in essence created a lost 17th-century religious masterpiece of his own genius: The Supper at Emmaus, after a Caravaggio he had seen. Next came the job of authentication, readily supplied by the respected aging critic Abraham Bredius, and soon the phony masterpiece was bought for a fabulous sum and hung in The Hague’s Boijmans Gallery. With the advent of war, and Hitler’s determination to own a Vermeer of his own, van Meegeren’s knockoffs soon made their way into Hermann Göring’s collection. The forger’s trajectory from wealthy charlatan to national hero makes for delicious reading.

Wynne employs all the devices of an expert roman policier.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 1-58234-593-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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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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