Due to the volume’s design, some will not find it useful as a standard reference book (we must search for dates), but most...

GABRIELE D'ANNUNZIO

POET, SEDUCER, AND PREACHER OF WAR

A dexterous delineation of the celebrated Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863–1938), who mastered poetry, drama, fiction, nonfiction, women and war but stumbled elsewhere.

A journalist, critic, cultural historian and biographer, Hughes-Hallett (Heroes: A History of Hero Worship, 2004, etc.) crafts an appealing combination of genres, blending elements of biography, fiction, and cultural, social and military history to create about as complete an image as possible of this most protean personality. The more we read of this man’s accomplishments, failures, ambitions, weaknesses and obsessions, the more remarkable it is that he can be imprisoned in print. But the author manages to simultaneously incarcerate and liberate him in her pages. She begins with a 1919 military mutiny led by D’Annunzio (she returns to these events 400 pages later for a more thorough treatment): He and his followers took over and occupied the city of Fiume (now the Croatian seaport Rijeka). It didn’t last. At times, the author’s narrative technique resembles a photo album: She continually pauses to offer snapshots of her subject’s life, career and enormous sexual appetite. Moreover, she grasps time by the throat, bends it to her purposes, often advancing thematically rather than chronologically. By the end, however, we have learned about her subject’s background, his writing career (some have called him the greatest Italian writer since Dante), his war exploits (he was a fearless pilot in World War I, earning citations for bravery), his choreography with the fascists (he met several times with Mussolini), his profligacy (in every sense) and his astonishing literary productivity.

Due to the volume’s design, some will not find it useful as a standard reference book (we must search for dates), but most readers will delight in touring the deep, tangled wood of a most astonishing life with a most engaging and learned guide.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-26393-3

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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