MONSIEUR D'EON IS A WOMAN

A TALE OF POLITICAL INTRIGUE AND SEXUAL MASQUERADE

A historian's lively and persuasive attempt to strip away the mystery surrounding the notorious 18th-century French cross- dresser, diplomat, writer, and spy, Chevalier (or Chevaliäre) d'Eon. D'Eon was thought to be a man for most of his life. He was a distinguished soldier, diplomat, and confidant of King Louis XV's. He consorted with some of the most famous figures of his time—from Voltaire and Rousseau to David Hume and Benjamin Franklin. Then, when he was nearly 50 years old, he was ``revealed'' to be a woman. He lived the remaining 35 years of his life as a ``she,'' only to be proved, upon his death, a biologically ordinary man after all. The fascinating story of how and why he did it is examined by Kates (Trinity Univ.; The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution, not reviewed), who argues that d'Eon was neither a transvestite nor a transsexual, but rather a man who made an intellectual decision to cross the gender barrier based on his professional and religious aims. His diplomatic career had reached an impasse and he hoped greater opportunities might be made available to him as a woman; also he became increasingly religious, believing that women made better Christians and were morally superior to men. However, while the chevalier was successful in his masquerade and helpful in furthering women's equality, he was largely unsuccessful in his goals. D'Eon's career ended with his feminization, and the Revolution of 1789 stripped him of his government stipend; he died poor and relatively obscure. Overall a coherent story, though there are some missing pieces: the silence of d'Eon's mother and sister, who were alive during his gender transformation, is not sufficiently explained, and though he appears to have been a virgin his whole life, the question of d'Eon's sexual orientation is left unaddressed. Nonetheless, a wonderful window into 18th-century France and a valuable biographical study of a compelling historical figure.

Pub Date: June 21, 1995

ISBN: 0-465-04761-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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