Another triumph for England’s most innovative biographer, and a marvelous treat for fans of Bewick’s beguiling work.

NATURE’S ENGRAVER

A LIFE OF THOMAS BEWICK

A wonderful portrait of the man whose exquisite woodcuts of landscapes and creatures reflected the essence of British rural life.

Uglow (The Lunar Men, 2002, etc.) brings us deep into the Northumberland countryside along the Tyne, where Thomas Bewick (1753–1828) grew up. A truant with a gift for drawing and a penchant for close observation of nature, he apprenticed himself at 14 to a Newcastle engraver and began a lifetime of etching on wood. By day, Bewick, and later his apprentices, handled commercial orders for engraving on mugs, coffin plates, posters and bar bills. In his spare time, he worked painstakingly on lively borderless woodcuts for such celebrated books as The Quadrupeds and History of British Birds, which found an eager audience among both children and adults. Woodcuts from Bewick’s workshop illustrated some 750 children’s books, religious tracts and other volumes published between 1770 and 1830. His circus posters, with ballet riders on horseback turning somersaults or hanging from the saddle, also delighted his countrymen. Working with his own tools—James Audubon noted their unusual delicacy—Bewick transformed the hitherto humble medium of the woodblock into an art, producing accurate images of birds and animals in an era increasingly enamored of natural history but lacking color photography. Uglow’s detailed account covers Bewick’s family life and political involvements, but she really shines when evoking the engraver’s bracing country walks, his affection for farmers and other locals and his passion for wildlife, all of which informed his work. We see him in his workshop working the wood, perfecting techniques that created a school of followers. An unabashed admirer, the author writes of Bewick’s “instinctive sympathy and astonished awe at the beauty of living things,” and we see it for ourselves in the book’s many illustrations.

Another triumph for England’s most innovative biographer, and a marvelous treat for fans of Bewick’s beguiling work.

Pub Date: June 12, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-11236-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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