ANSEL ADAMS

A BIOGRAPHY

A well-documented but flawed life of one of America's most famous photographers and environmentalists. Alinder knows her subject well; she worked for several years as Adams's executive assistant (``on call seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day''), led the team that helped the master assemble his 1985 memoirs, and coedited his volume Letters and Images, 19161984 (not reviewed). Out from under his gaze, Alinder is free to consider Adams more critically than before. She does so only a little, noting, for instance, that for her, an enthusiastic member of the generation that came of age in the 1960s, Adams was ``a monolith: unapproachable because he was unrelatable, an anachronism,'' while the older Imogen Cunningham donned hippie clothes and was part of the scene. In his early years, it develops, Adams was something of a womanizer (no matter whether or not it's germane, no modern biography can escape a look into its subject's sex life), and in later life he acted the curmudgeon, all the while single-mindedly forging a financial empire with his lens. These things Alinder tells us unflinchingly, but she too often falls into starry-eyed, even hyperbolic description, undermining the objectivity of her work: ``Ansel had become world-famous, his name synonymous with both photography and the growing environmental conscience. He had created an awesome string of important images that spoke only of his vision and no one else's.'' There is entirely too much fawning of this sort here, but Alinder covers the main points well, noting especially Adams's signal contributions to the work of the Sierra Club. She notes, as have many others before her, that as a young man Adams trained to be a concert pianist, and his photographs carry an almost musical sense of composition. Alinder's commentary on his style is direct and interesting, and one wishes that there were more of it. Readers familiar with Adams's autobiographical writings will find little new here. (30 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 24, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4116-8

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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