A much-needed, comprehensive biography of a great American artist.



The life and times of abstract expressionism’s sculpture queen.

“I’m just sort of a one-man circus. I call myself an architect of shadow and reflection.” This is how Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) described herself in 1971. Wilson, an art historian and practicing psychoanalyst (NYU Medical School), is perfectly suited to write this intimate, revealing biography of the artist she interviewed many times and considers “one of the greatest American artists of the twentieth-century.” The author argues it was always art and creativity that mattered to Nevelson, even at the cost of sometimes ignoring her family. She was born Leah Berliawsky in Russia and moved to Rockland, Maine, with her Jewish family when she was 5. As a child, she loved drawing, especially furniture. She married Charles Nevelson in 1920 and had a baby boy in 1922. She moved to New York City and began studying, drawing, and painting at the Art Students League in 1929 where she was mentored by a number of artists. Trips to Munich and Paris sparked her love for cubism. From 1934 to 1942 (she divorced in 1941), she began to focus on her “true artistic vocation—sculpture.” Her early works used found wood, like furniture, and she arranged bits and pieces in distinctly linear ways, some spray-painted with a single color. She experimented with plexiglass, then aluminum, then steel. In 1942, she “let loose and headed straight for Surrealism.” As her exhibits and reputation grew, so did the extravagances of her personal life. She became promiscuous, and she wore colorful clothes, exotic jewelry, crazy hats, and furry false eyelashes. She was living large, and her steel sculptures were large now, as well—imposing, massive (50 to 70 feet high), and weighing tons. Exuding a mystical quality, they “became the environment itself.” In her final years, she created inspiring, dramatic, monumental public art for cities across the country. In this occasionally revelatory narrative, Wilson continually proves her extensive knowledge of her subject.

A much-needed, comprehensive biography of a great American artist.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-500-09401-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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 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 19, 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...


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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