THE LADY IN THE PALAZZO

AT HOME IN UMBRIA

A third sumptuous volume about the author’s quest to find a home in Italy.

After A Thousand Days in Venice (2002) and A Thousand Days in Tuscany (2004), de Blasi and her husband move to Umbria, a place where “stories and sins are passed down like sets of silver.” There, they enter into a complex, decidedly Italian contract with a local family, the storied Ubaldini, who own a grand, decrepit palazzo. The couple will pony up money to repair the old building, then move in for a few years of rent-free living. While the palazzo is being made habitable, they set up house in a charming cottage—charming, that is, except for the mold and the absence of a kitchen, which poses quite a challenge for the gourmand author. In describing this new life in Umbria, de Blasi follows the formula of her two earlier books, and it works like a tried-and-true recipe. The local eccentrics (and all the locals are eccentric, of course) are charming and sometimes speak real wisdom, though not so often as to be precious. When one of de Blasi’s friends cautions her that “Most all of us abide in ruins. . . . Our own, the ones we inherit,” he is speaking about more than old houses. The food, of course, is an epicurean’s fantasy. The author prepares and includes the recipes for “rustic, refined” dishes like pan-sautéed pears with pecorina and brown-sugar gelato with caramelized blood oranges. In her hands, food also becomes the stuff of metaphor and simile: Her eye shadow is a dab of milk chocolate, she flicks away fatigue “like crumbs of old cake,” walls are red like pomegranate seeds. De Blasi is a skilled, quirky writer; her prose is by turns reserved, rococo, earthy and, above all, fresh—fresh, like rich cream and strawberries, she might say.

Delicious.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2007

ISBN: 1-56512-473-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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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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