SELECTED LETTERS OF SERGEI PROKOFIEV

An entertaining and useful selection of Prokofiev’s correspondence with prominent figures in Soviet and ÇmigrÇ art, dance, and music circles that brims with the composer’s personality and literary style. After reading but a few of Prokofiev’s letters (appearing in English for the first time), one can easily agree with Robinson’s suggestion that, had he not become a composer, Prokofiev might have turned to writing. He did write opera librettos, but the letters in this collection are especially revealing of the private man—a witty and ironic, though harsh, friend, a tireless worker, and an energetic man of business. Among those included in this selection of business letters (many about artistic collaborations), travel reports, and friendly notes are figures in the music world (Serge Koussevitsky, Nikolai Miaskovsky), the director Sergei Eisenstein, Ballets Russes director Sergei Diaghilev, and theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold. The list is a virtual who’s who of the Soviet artistic elite, and many letters shed light on the nature of Prokofiev’s artistry and his personality. Robinson, the author of a 1987 biography of the composer, also provides useful introductions to each chapter. His comments are unsentimental and even brutally candid. Describing the composer’s egotism and his mocking manner, he writes: —Empathy and compassion were never strong traits in Prokofiev’s character.— Robinson has published these letters in an effort to help save Prokofiev’s reputation from those (especially post—Cold War Russians) who condemn his —collaboration— with the Soviets. The letters, he argues, provide proof for his earlier claim that Prokofiev lacked political views. While they confirm that music was his raison d’àtre, they also indicate that, while Prokofiev chose to distance himself from politics, he was not ignorant of them. A valuable and accessible resource for musicologists, Soviet specialists, and those seeking greater insight into Prokofiev’s life and art. Readers should, however, make up their own minds about his politics.

Pub Date: May 29, 1998

ISBN: 1-55553-347-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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