Claridge’s biography is timely, accompanying a widespread critical reappraisal of Rockwell’s work. Though there will still...

NORMAN ROCKWELL

A brilliant biography that affords considerable insight into the complicated, worried mind of the masterly illustrator.

Norman Rockwell (1894–1977) believed in painting as an expression not only of cultural values—including, in his case, patriotism, community, and ordinary decency—but also as a means of telling quiet stories about life, and his huge body of work reflected his belief that “the idea itself probably is the most important element of the entire illustration.” Still, writes Claridge (Tamara de Lempicka, 1999), Rockwell was not without his sense of irony, and even his subversive side; for one thing, as Claridge notes, he undid a long tradition of depicting women with “arched eyebrows, enlarged eyes, no shadows on the face, no nostrils, Cupid’s bow mouth arranged in a sort of suppressed yawn” and replaced it with an insistent narrative realism in which not-exactly-beautiful people figure prominently. Though Rockwell enjoyed early success as an illustrator for Boys’ Life and the Saturday Evening Post, earning a handsome living as an artist while still in his teens, he wrestled with fears that he was a failure and became obsessed with money, which caused him constantly to make commitments to produce work that he could not possibly meet. Still, he did produce, by Claridge’s count, more than 4,000 paintings. For all his remarkable output, and although contemporaries like Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol praised his work, Rockwell was dismissed by contemporary critics as an old-fashioned hack, criticism he probably agreed with. Claridge’s exegesis of paintings such as Playing Checkers points to his very real skills while pointing out characteristic but not accidental shortcomings: “The careful and complex spatial composition, the unsettling use of vivid scarlets and scalding yellow, the brilliantly painted surfaces,” she writes, “all these are, finally, unspoiled by Rockwell’s typical compulsion to wrench at least one character’s expression into caricature, in the name of quick access to a story line.”

Claridge’s biography is timely, accompanying a widespread critical reappraisal of Rockwell’s work. Though there will still be those who sneer at him as a propagandist on canvas, her life makes a convincing case for Rockwell as genius and original.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-50453-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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