A scintillating foray into “what makes something collectible, valuable, and enduring.”

THE ONE-CENT MAGENTA

INSIDE THE QUEST TO OWN THE MOST VALUABLE STAMP IN THE WORLD

The biography of a very special stamp.

The “Mona Lisa of stamps” was born—or printed—in British Guiana in 1856. As a mere, “provisional” one-cent stamp used to send out several hundred periodicals before the real stamps arrived by ship, its birth was unheralded. It was, as New York Times reporter Barron (Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand, 2006) notes, “overlooked and forgotten.” The author first heard about the unique stamp at a party, and when he was told how much it might soon fetch at auction as part of the John E. DuPont estate, he had to know more. Barron turns this seemingly insignificant story into a thoroughly entertaining tale of speculation and investigation into “Stamp World, an arcane parallel universe peopled by collectors who are crazed and crazy, obsessed and obsessive.” The first stop in the journey is 1873, when a 12-year-old boy found the stamp in his uncle’s house and sold it to a novice collector for six shillings, the equivalent of “$16.83 in today’s dollars.” The stamp was soon sold to another collector, who then sold it to an eccentric Paris aristocrat and collector. When his entire collection was auctioned off in the early 1920s, the stamp was cataloged as “the only known example.” Then, it was purchased by an anonymous, wealthy buyer, Arthur Hind, from Utica, New York for $32,500. Barron recounts the perhaps apocryphal story that Hind was approached by a man who claimed that he also had a one-center. According to the tale, Hind bought it and then burned it up with his cigar, saying, mischievously, “there’s only one magenta one-cent Guiana.” The author whimsically follows the stamp’s long journey right up to where his story began: the record-breaking auction.

A scintillating foray into “what makes something collectible, valuable, and enduring.”

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61620-518-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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