A shrewd eye investigating worlds too often dominated by hype.



Urbane essays from a noted fashion, art, and culture critic.

As editor-in-chief of Artforum and Interview magazine and contributor to the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, Sischy (1952-2015) was immersed in the worlds of art and fashion from the 1980s until her death. Warmly introduced by artist and musician Laurie Anderson, these smart, stylish, and perceptive essays, selected by Sischy’s wife, Brant, impressively display the range of her interests and talents. Praising painter Alice Neel for deciding to “represent the powerful instead of the powerless” as subjects, Sischy wrote that Neel “seems to have been born to paint this world, a world in which she had one foot in and one foot out.” Sischy also observed art and fashion with clarity and a certain detachment, and she respected individuals who did not flaunt their celebrity: Miuccia Prada, for example, who brings to her designs “consciousness of the history of beauty” and yet is not “fooling herself with pronouncements that she will revolutionize fashion with her latest move.” Nicole Kidman, the subject of a Vanity Fair profile, struck Sischy as modest, sincere, dependable, “a person who doesn’t let others down” and “hasn’t undergone the kind of narcissistic transformation that can turn extremely famous people into absolute bores or unbearable phonies.” Sischy seemed drawn, as well, to the vulnerable: photographer Bob Richardson, whose struggle with drugs and alcohol led to homelessness; Calvin Klein, whose retirement from fashion precipitated a substance abuse relapse; Jeff Koons, who “can be as hot-blooded as Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire”; John Galliano, “a highly functioning addict, relying on an almost lethal mix of alcohol and pills to stay on top of his game”; and Keith Haring, feverishly ambitious, who died of AIDS at 31. Sischy was also sensitive to “vicissitudes of taste” that affected artists’ reputations. “The notion that art speaks for itself is appealing but unrealistic,” she wrote in an essay about 19th-century photographer Clementina, Lady Hawarden, largely ignored during her lifetime.

A shrewd eye investigating worlds too often dominated by hype.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3203-5

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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 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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?