An intricate, visually lavish dive into a religiously influenced creative process.

A PENCIL IN GOD'S HAND

THE STORY OF THE ONLY AMERICAN ARCHITECT TO DESIGN A BUILDING IN THE VATICAN

In this debut memoir, a building designer asserts that divine inspiration helped turn an offbeat chapel into a jewel.

Pittsburgh-based architect Astorino was called to Rome in 1993 to consult on a proposed residence hall in Vatican City for visiting cardinals and bishops. The project stirred public controversy because the proposed structure would block views of St. Peter’s Basilica. As he devised a new design that lowered the building’s height, the process flowed so rapturously, he says, that he “felt like a pencil in someone’s hand.” However, Vatican bureaucrats resisted the plan. The devout author was bitterly disappointed, but then he experienced an epiphany in which the Holy Spirit prompted him to follow “the path of inner surrender and resignation.” Later, the Vatican commissioned him to design a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit. After praying for guidance, he and his colleagues received a burst of inspiration that “felt natural and comfortable…as if someone were holding our hands.” The result was an innovative, modernist design based on triangle motifs, featuring a series of sharply peaked roofs, a marble floor of richly colored triangular grids, and a glass partition looking out on an ancient Roman wall hung with sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross. The chapel is so inviting, Astorino says, that it’s become Pope Francis’ favorite place to celebrate Mass. (The book also includes an admiring tribute to Pope Francis’ intellect, avoidance of luxury, love of the poor, and willingness to pose for pictures with pilgrims.) Astorino and debut co-author Carney, a Franciscan nun, infuse this engaging architectural appreciation and procedural with Catholic ardor throughout: “The lighting system—its source recessed and carefully hidden—would augment the contemplative atmosphere of the chapel and reflect the mystery of the Holy Spirit.” They also illustrate the heartfelt remembrance with many sumptuous photographs of the finished chapel as well as of various blueprints, models, and other Vatican scenes, including Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and Swiss Guards in their particolored pantaloons. Overall, this book will surely captivate architecture mavens and fans of Vatican atmospherics.

An intricate, visually lavish dive into a religiously influenced creative process.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-9990-9

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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