Secrest ably chronicles Schiap’s career and social life, mining others’ memoirs and reflections to fashion a colorful...

ELSA SCHIAPARELLI

A BIOGRAPHY

The life of a flamboyant couturière.

Italian-born designer Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was a fashion star in Paris from 1927 until she closed her atelier in 1954. Known for clothes with “a daredevil swagger,” she favored bold colors, thickly padded shoulders and surrealist motifs, many inspired by Salvador Dali: a hat shaped like a shoe; a diaphanous evening dress screen printed with a gigantic lobster; a jacket whose pockets featured glistening red lips. Her contributions to mainstream fashion included the jacket dress, the wrap dress and visible zippers. Schiap, as she was known, was an egocentric exhibitionist who became a dress designer “by accident; it seemed an easy way to earn money.” And earn money she did, with businesses in Paris, London and New York that included perfumes, jewelry, and extensive clothing and accessory manufacturers. According to her daughter, she was a “mad socializer. Mummy got dressed up every night for her umpteen dinner parties, leaving me with a nanny.” Schiap needed to be always on the move, to be seen at every party and theater opening and to travel extensively. Surrounded by the rich and famous, she seemed, nevertheless, to crave affection. A friend described her as “a bit of a bulldog, setting up barriers so one did not dare approach her.” Prolific biographer Secrest (Shoot the Widow: Adventures of a Biographer in Search of Her Subject, 2007, etc.) faced the barrier of finding few primary sources: virtually no letters, no diary and a memoir written in the third person that Secrest calls “an example of an evasiveness that was almost automatic, pages of superfluous description of minor events and irrelevant anecdotes” in which Schiap made only “cryptic references” to her marriage and daughter. A granddaughter refused to cooperate with the author, as well, and her friends were dead.

Secrest ably chronicles Schiap’s career and social life, mining others’ memoirs and reflections to fashion a colorful portrait of her “famously difficult” subject—but Schiap keeps the secrets of her heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0307701596

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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