Lucid and learned and propelled by a piercing dramatic irony.

THE YELLOW HOUSE

VAN GOGH, GAUGUIN, AND NINE TURBULENT WEEKS IN ARLES

In the fall and early winter of 1888, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin shared a studio in a yellow house in the south of France. Result? Much painting and whoring and, at the end, a meltdown and an ear-slicing.

Gayford (co-editor of the Grove Book of Art Writing and chief art critic for Bloomberg News) has crafted a brisk, engaging narrative about the brief co-habitation of two of the world’s most celebrated painters. Although the author focuses more frequently on the mercurial van Gogh and his varied vagaries, Gauguin comes off well, and the many reproductions offered here of the works he produced during his time with van Gogh form an eloquent testimony to his genius. Gauguin also emerges as a tolerant man who recognized the prodigious and prolific talent of his friend and endured the tortured Dutchman as long as possible. Things started well that remarkable fall. The two took walks, painted common subjects, visited local museums, read books together (Zola, for instance), visited the local prostitutes regularly, agreed on the splendors of Delacroix, argued about the merits of other painters. Gauguin’s career accelerated during the period (he sold several paintings through the offices of Theo van Gogh, the painter’s brother), occasioning some anxiety in Vincent, who was not doing so well. The bonhomie eventually weakened, and when van Gogh sliced off his ear (or a part thereof), Gauguin, after helping rescue his friend, entrained for Paris; the two never saw each other again. Gayford’s principal interest is with the paintings. He discusses the major ones (and some of the minor) with great care and sensitivity and sees in the artists’ work some cross-fertilization. The author ends with the deaths of all involved and speculates that van Gogh suffered from bipolar disorder.

Lucid and learned and propelled by a piercing dramatic irony.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-76901-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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