Casanova’s adventures include plenty of juicy details, and Bergreen weaves in just enough to prove his reputation. His...

CASANOVA

THE WORLD OF A SEDUCTIVE GENIUS

Bergreen (Columbus: The Four Voyages, 2011, etc.) applies his historical storytelling skills to the famous Venetian lover, introducing his intellectual side.

Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) was the child of two actors from whom he inherited and perfected his playacting abilities, which he used to his advantage as a social climber. He trained for the church and received a doctorate in civil and canon law at age 16, giving him the basis for his exceptional writings. His mother deserted him and set the pattern for the Casanova Syndrome of seduction and abandonment. He was a libertine and proud of it; he felt it better to be notorious than obscure. He was an adventurer, mathematician, musician, and literary genius, but he was also an obsessive gambler, losing and gaining fortune after fortune. One of his most successful gambles was instituting the French lottery for the state in 1758. It continued to be successful even through the French Revolution, paying for the Ecole Militaire where Napoleon trained. (It was Napoleon who eventually caused the collapse of Casanova’s beloved Venice.) Casanova usually fell in love with his conquests, and sometimes he actually failed to convince his lover to submit to him. Condemned as an atheist by the Inquisition, he was locked up in a miserable prison on the top floor of the Doge’s Palace. It would be nearly two decades before he was pardoned and allowed to return to Venice. Throughout, Bergreen makes good use of an excellent translation of his subject’s 12-volume memoir. While it was published shortly after his death, it was censored and edited, and the first unexpurgated version didn’t appear until 1960. The author neatly captures Casanova’s voice, “often amused, but rarely mocking, conversational yet highly literary, and simultaneously vulgar and brilliant.”

Casanova’s adventures include plenty of juicy details, and Bergreen weaves in just enough to prove his reputation. His travels during one of history’s most exciting periods will be great fun for any history lover.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1649-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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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