This is no beach book. Rossellini gives us illuminating classes in art history, Western civilization, philosophy, and...

READ REVIEW

KNOW THYSELF

WESTERN IDENTITY FROM CLASSICAL GREECE TO THE RENAISSANCE

Polymath Rossellini shares the fruits of her broad knowledge of literature, philosophy, art, and history in this dense yet highly rewarding work in which readers “return to the early times of our history with the intention of rediscovering the building blocks of our contemporary personality.”

The author, who has taught at Columbia, Harvard, and other prestigious universities, begins with the ancient Greeks and works her way through the eras of the Romans, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. Collaborating with others is an innate human characteristic, and few civilizations illustrated that trait better than the Spartans and Athenians. The Spartans were isolationist while the Athenians were open and embracing of their culture. In both societies, a person’s social group determined who they were and what was expected of them. The author appropriately devotes a good portion of the book to Greece and the development of philosophy, focusing on the legacies of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great as well as the development of art, drama, and the theater and the role of mixed government. The Roman Republic carried that idea through with a perfect mix of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, which prevented the tyranny of the few or the many. Rossellini then moves on to the growth of Christianity, which distrusted reason and separated the mind from the soul. Suddenly the church, rather than the state, was essential to survival. Art was idolatry; doubt denied salvation, and guilt became the overriding mood. The church became a temporal leader, controlling kings and calling for the rise of the Crusades. In the Middle Ages, cities grew rapidly while infrastructure improved and universities and scholarship flourished. The author ends with humanism and the Renaissance, completing a highly satisfying journey across centuries of culture.

This is no beach book. Rossellini gives us illuminating classes in art history, Western civilization, philosophy, and religion, all rolled into one book that must be read closely and pondered fully.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-385-54188-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more