WORLDLY GOODS

A NEW HISTORY OF THE RENAISSANCE

A perceptive history of the Renaissance from an original angle: its appetite for material possessions. Jardine (English/Univ. of London) argues that the unashamed pursuit of valuable possessions, including great religious and secular art, was a defining characteristic of the period. The new age of learning and exploration was also, she reminds us, an age driven by the urge to own, to publicly succeed, and the author views the typical ``Renaissance man'' as being motivated by conspicuous consumption as much as by humanist principles. The leading members of Renaissance society sought to live in ornate palaces filled with fine paintings, sculpture, marble and rare stone, porcelain, Venetian glass, silk from China, broadcloth from London, rich velvet, and fine tapestries and carvings—hardly the spiritual symbols of a deeply religious era. Yet Renaissance religious art reflected a true spirituality: Most Renaissance artists believed that only the very best was good enough to honor their sacred subjects. In Jardine's view, the Renaissance uniquely combined the sacred with the profane: She cites examples of literature and art that blithely mixed a celebration of valuable commodities with sacred themes. During the Renaissance, city-states like Venice and Genoa grew fat channeling the riches and spices of the Orient into Europe. Trading, capital investment, banking, and credit all accelerated the creation of a new wealthy class. Ostentation reflected the authority of powerful princes of the states and the Church, and the achievements of great merchants. Some innovations improved the lot of the common man and inspired more humble consumption. In particular, the invention of the printing press made formerly handwritten rare copies of Greek and Roman classics available to learned commoners. Jardine's primary research and conclusions appear sound and convincing, providing new insights into the acquisitive basis of a fascinating age that helped to shape our world. (16 color plates, 60 b&w illustrations, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-47684-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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