Shapiro has, in a brief book, made her subject truly come alive.

JULIA CHILD

Shapiro (Something from the Oven, 2004) offers a vivid biography of the 20th century’s leading gourmand.

Food wasn’t very important to Julia Child when she was young. She grew up in California, eating the bland New England cuisine that her Massachusetts-born mother instructed the future chef to prepare. After attending Smith College, she meandered through the next decade, single, without a real career. In 1946, in part because she was trying to make herself more attractive to the man she would eventually marry, she took a cooking class. Child was not, Shapiro makes clear, a born chef: In the early days, chickens were blackened to a crisp; a duck exploded; béarnaise sauce congealed; brains dissolved into mush. As a new bride in France, floundering around for something meaningful to do, Child enrolled in more classes, this time at the Cordon Bleu. There, she learned to cook “with all her senses engaged . . . with a visceral understanding of raw ingredients.” A career—teaching Americans how to cook—was born. Why was she so successful on TV, in an era when cooking shows weren’t very popular? Because, says Shapiro, Child had no artifice. She was herself on television. She was also fabulously composed in the face of on-air kitchen disasters—as when a tarte tartin collapsed in a heap. Her informal charm and humor helped her accomplish one of her central goals—to demystify French cuisine, and convince Americans that they could, to borrow the title of her most famous book, master the art of French cooking. In Shapiro’s hands, Child emerges as a steadfast, vigorous, analytical person.

Shapiro has, in a brief book, made her subject truly come alive.

Pub Date: April 9, 2007

ISBN: 0-670-03839-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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