A music historian’s (Univ. of Houston) biography of the man who, despite sectarian assaults from the academy, is still regarded as America’s greatest composer. Modern biographers appear to feel obliged to write works that weigh in at several pounds; but, length notwithstanding, Pollack’s book is remarkably taut and clear. Extensive musical analyses, though with minimal technical jargon, replace the meal inventories and party rosters that usually document life’s less dramatic stretches and, given the breadth and diversity of Copland’s (1900—90) work, prove both welcome and diverting. But more original is the narrative design. Rather than simply stringing together what he considers telling episodes, Pollack sounds a theme as it occurs chronologically—political affiliations, professional relationships, personal finances—and then offers a summary of its development and variation across a lifetime. The effect is of parallel expositions that create a superstructure only gradually filled in. New events enter into existing contexts, seeming to assume their prescribed places rather than accreting randomly. Pollack sketches character in the same way, presenting a series of sometimes conflicting accounts from friends and rivals, all meticulously footnoted, and then allowing the reader to judge new disclosures of fact accordingly. He appears to have no psychoanalytic theory about Copland—a leftist Brooklyn Jew who came to grips with his homosexuality in the 1920s—which is a welcome relief. Perhaps his even-handedness and circumspection derive from his subject, a paragon of self-control in an environment uniquely hospitable to self-indulgence. Still, such creditable objectivity, even in describing the aesthetic rigor that, combined with Copland’s compulsive honesty, could disgruntle colleagues, can—t help but stir affection for the man who did more than any other to build a uniquely American musical culture. Not only a success in its own right, but a valuable model of what biography can and probably should be.

Pub Date: March 9, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-4909-6

Page Count: 632

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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 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 19, 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...


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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