The monumental conclusion to a two-part biography of Alexander Calder (1898-1976), one of the most important figures in 20th-century sculpture.

In this masterfully researched work, art historian Perl, a New York Review of Books contributor who served as the art critic for the New Republic for 20 years, has constructed an impressive monument that should raise the standards for future art biographies. The author celebrates his subject while effortlessly educating his audience; his text is at once erudite and accessible and achieves an exquisite balance between historical and theoretical readings. While the previous volume chronicled the genesis of Calder’s formal concepts, this one explores the life of an established artist as Calder was contemplating the permanence of his objects and his legacy. His career was catapulted by a series of outdoor commissions, as “people were beginning to recognize the power of his work to animate contemporary architectural spaces.” As Perl writes, “if in the 1930s Calder was conquering time as he made sculptures move, in the 1960s he was conquering space as he created abstract sculptures of a size and an impact seldom seen before.” Delicate mobiles evolved into “a new kind of urban landmark,” massive artworks that pulsed with “muscular energy.” Between Calder’s home in Roxbury, Connecticut, and his studio in rural France, Perl traces a steady sequence of major exhibitions and projects, from Calder’s MoMA debut in 1943 to his Whitney retrospective in 1976, which was on view the year he died of a heart attack. A rhapsodic historian, Perl presents each sculpture as a masterpiece, but he doesn’t shy away from criticism. He acknowledges that some considered Calder’s work “too easy” or “chic throwaways,” and he details the artist’s occasionally awkward commercial collaborations. Cumulatively, these episodes form a complete picture of an exceptional artist and all the significant developments of his oeuvre. Perl finds a vivacity between the artist and his many creations. “No longer were the figures in a painting or a sculpture what really mattered,” he writes. “Now what mattered was the life of the work of art itself.”

A towering achievement.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-49411-5

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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 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...


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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