PHILIP JOHNSON

LIFE AND WORK

Spry and readable, this first major Johnson biography delivers the goods on the puckish 87-year-old godfather of American architecture. Although Johnson granted architectural historian Schulze (Mies van der Rohe, not reviewed) extensive interviews, he demanded no editorial control over the project. Consequently, the portrait that emerges is fresh, candid, and relatively free of flattery. Schulze tells how Johnson, born to a wealthy Ohio family, learned early how to ply privilege into power (a gift of stock from his father made him a millionaire by the time he graduated Harvard). Johnson's ``inglorious detour''—his 1930s travels to Germany and dabblings in fascist and Nazi ideologies—are described in detail for the first time. Back stateside, an unrepentant Johnson is shown supporting Father Charles E. Coughlin, as well as forging and deepening influential bonds with Museum of Modern Art director Alfred Barr, author Henry-Russell Hitchcock, and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It wasn't until 1945, though, that the still- unlicensed Johnson opened his architectural practice. A quick tour of his eclectic output starts with Johnson's own New Canaan, Conn., home, the Glass House of 194849, a homage to Mies van der Rohe, with whom he would later co-design New York's influential Seagram Building. Schulze analyzes Johnson's schemes for Houston's Pennzoil Plaza, California evangelist Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral, and New York's Chippendale-topped AT&T headquarters as products of brilliantly dandyish whim and historical pastiche. A master at self-positioning, Johnson is seen in the 1970s and 1980s gravitating away from modernism to a new generation of postmodernists and deconstructivists—notably, Michael Graves, Robert A.M. Stern, Frank Gehry, and Peter Eisenman. Throughout, Schulze pays ample attention to the architect's personal life, including his relentless social hobnobbing and extended romantic relationships with a series of distinctive men, such as artist David Grainger Whitney. An expansive view of Johnson's prickly intellect, ambition, and shifting aesthetic core. (125 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 1994

ISBN: 0-394-57204-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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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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