MADAM VALENTINO

THE MANY LIVES OF NATACHA RAMBOVA

Well-done life of Rudolph Valentino's wife, a woman of boundless gifts, by art historian Morris (St. Mary's College). With a keenly written text and 150 duotones (not seen), and considering Natacha Rambova's background in Egyptology, ballet, and as an exotic costume and set designer (she designed Alla Nazimova's film of Salome, basing her costumes and sets on Aubrey Beardsley's original drawings for Oscar Wilde), Morris's biography bids fair to satisfy in all departments. Born Winifred Shaughnessy in Salt Lake City, Rambova signed up with the Theodore Kosloff Imperial Russian Ballet in Manhattan, was given her stage name by her lover Kosloff, who first seduced her at 17. When she confronted Kosloff with his infidelities, he bloodied her leg with birdshot. Rambova's mother's sister-in-law was sapphic Elsie de Wolfe, the world's first interior decorator, who took on Rambova's mother as her partner; both became millionaires, decorating homes for the rich and mighty. Rambova herself, who read only world mythology both as a child and an adult, inherited the de Wolfe/Shaughnessy artistic temperament, designed her own ballet costumes, became a costume designer for Cecil B. De Mille, later designed Rudolph Valentino's image, costumes, and sets, and then became a writer/director. Valentino had made only one film when she met him and began shaping his publicity. When his studio fought her efforts, Valentino signed a contract excluding her from work on his pictures. She fled and divorced him. Chasing her, Valentino came down with a necrotic hole in his stomach, died of longing in Manhattan, had a riotous funeral. Rambova went on to become a playwright, an actress, and a spiritualist, with her huge labors in Egyptology winning the admiration of Carl Jung. She died at 56, of scleroderma, a disease that dried up her inner organs. A questing, creative woman far ahead of her time—and truly exotic.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1991

ISBN: 1-55859-136-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Abbeville Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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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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