AUBREY BEARDSLEY

A BIOGRAPHY

A portrait of the artist as a young decadent. Though tuberculosis killed Beardsley at the age of 25 in 1898, by then he had already attained success as an eye-catching illustrator and celebrity as the definitive graphic artist of decadence. As Sturgis (Passionate Attitudes: The English Decadence of the 1890s, not reviewed) shows, Beardsley’s accomplishments resulted from an intense dedication to his work and the sedulous cultivation of a doomed dandy’s (ultimately well-justified) pose. For all his affectations, his family was thoroughly middle-class, though his mother had an unconventional streak. Before he began studying drawing, their straitened finances forced him to take a position in London as a clerk. Although Beardsley served an apprenticeship with the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Edward Burne-Jones (William Morris thought he had talent only for drapery), Sturgis also notes Whistler’s influence, not only through his japonisme and the “Ten O’Clock Lecture,” but also through his extravagant dandyism and instinct for public relations. Beardsley became famous for his erotic and cruel illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s Salome, yet despite his independent achievement as art editor of the Yellow Book, his fate was linked with Wilde’s scandalous downfall. Although he withstood the Victorian backlash and being fired from the Yellow Book, his death from tuberculosis—the era’s epitomizing disease—in truth capped his career. The notable company Beardsley kept yields numerous interesting anecdotes and bon mots from Wilde, Whistler, Frank Harris, Max Beerbohm, and W.B. Yeats, though Sturgis always qualifies, and sometimes must correct, their unreliable testimonies. With occasionally arch prose, the author places Beardsley as a significant presence in a larger group. The only drawback to Sturgis’s biographical approach is his failure to examine the importance of sexual obsession and satire to Beardsley’s artistic persona. A life rendered with rich detail and sly touches—but not deeply. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 1999

ISBN: 0-87951-910-X

Page Count: 405

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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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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