A literary meal both luscious and lively—and essential to understanding our vacillating love affair with the French.

THE GOURMANDS' WAY

SIX AMERICANS IN PARIS AND THE BIRTH OF A NEW GASTRONOMY

A thoroughly researched account of how Americans fell in and out of love with French cuisine and cooking.

Cultural historian Spring (Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade, 2011, etc.) returns with a stunning account of six eclectic, electric personalities, a group of Americans who helped popularize French cooking in America in the middle of the 20th century. Some are names that even the most casual cook knows (Julia Child, Alice B. Toklas), but others will be recognizable mostly to oenophiles or those who know a bit of kitchen custom and/or history (M.F.K. Fisher, Alexis Lichine, A.J. Liebling, Richard Olney). Throughout, the author combines biography and cultural history. He tells us the relevant pieces of his principals’ biographies—focusing, of course, on their gastronomical work—and how each affected the swelling interest in all things French. He also credits numerous others, including John F. and Jackie Kennedy, for influencing public opinion. Although Spring is mostly generous in his assessments, he does do some occasional slicing, especially on Fisher, whom he basically calls a liar—though he recognizes that her artful lying was a form of storytelling. It is fascinating to read how these six figures discovered French food, wine, and cooking and how each developed a specialty and then brought that knowledge to a public eager to read about it all—or, in the case of Child, who had a long-running show on PBS, to see it on TV. Spring also discusses the deaths of each of his subjects, their legacies, and the ultimate implosion of the fascination with French culture, brought on largely by the turmoil of the late 1960s, both in the U.S. and France.

A literary meal both luscious and lively—and essential to understanding our vacillating love affair with the French.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-10315-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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