This narrative is taken over by doubtful speculations and by a faithful, but wearying catalogue of an oeuvre renowned for...

MODIGLIANI

A LIFE

It shouldn’t be possible to write a dull life of Amedeo Modigliani, but Meyers (Impressionist Quartet, 2005) manages the task.

The most cursed of the artists maudit who crowded bohemian Paris in the early-20th century, Modigliani burned his candle at both ends and in the middle to boot, dying in obscure poverty only a few years before collectors discovered his work. Among his peers, Modi’s vast talent was legendary, as was his charismatic personality and his striking physical beauty. But in the age of Cubism and abstraction, he dedicated himself to the sensuous, figurative painting evident in his renowned series of erotic nudes and couldn’t help but be overshadowed by his friend and rival Picasso. Though Modigliani never received the recognition he craved, he lived a brief life of extraordinary abandon. A devotee of Nietzsche and of Lautréamont, and a gifted poet himself, this pampered son from a family of bourgeois Italian Jews became the most terrible of Paris’s enfants terribles. Even in a community notorious for its excesses, Modi stood out for the wretched intensity of his drinking and drug use and for the grand passion of his many unhappy love affairs. By the age of 35, he was dead of tuberculosis. Unfortunately for Meyers, Modigliani left almost no letters or diaries behind, and the only written records that survive come from heavily poeticized tributes written after his death. Lacking the material to construct a distinctive portrait, Meyers seeks to render Modigliani by invoking strained comparisons to other men he may have resembled. (“Though the two artists never met, the tragic career of . . . French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Breszka . . . illuminates Modi’s character.”)

This narrative is taken over by doubtful speculations and by a faithful, but wearying catalogue of an oeuvre renowned for its lack of variety.

Pub Date: March 20, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-101178-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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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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