Unger’s edged prose shows us a clear Michelangelo emerging from the stone of history.

MICHELANGELO

A LIFE IN SIX MASTERPIECES

Art historian and journalist Unger (Machiavelli, 2011, etc.) organizes his life of Michelangelo by focusing on six masterpieces of varying media that compose the pillars of his creative life.

Michelangelo di Lodovico di Buonarroti Simone (1475-1564) was a cantankerous genius whose works emerged not just from Italian marble, but from the even more adamantine stone of the political realities of his time. The six works that Unger focuses on include Pietà, David, the Sistine ceiling, Medici Tombs, Last Judgment and St. Peter’s Basilica. The author tells us about the idea, the creation (Michelangelo was notoriously secretive about his work and did not like others, especially his patrons, looking in and making suggestions), the political and interpersonal difficulties he faced, and the public receptions. This last varied widely: The Sistine ceiling brought cries of admiration; Last Judgment elicited cries of another sort—another painter disguised some nudity. Unger excels at showing us the artist at work: his reluctance, his caginess, his temperament (easily hurt and angered, he sometimes tried to run away) and his jealousies (da Vinci and Raphael among them). We marvel, too, at his mastery of so many different types of media. Unger describes his contentious relationships with members of his own family, especially his hectoring letters to his siblings. Readers will find it astonishing how many of Michelangelo’s letters remain; he died in 1564, the year of the birth of Shakespeare, who left no letters (or other manuscript material). We also see Michelangelo’s ferocious work habits and perfectionism and his ascetic lifestyle, which didn’t really change until later in his life when his financial situation became more comfortable. Michelangelo outlived numerous popes (his relationships with them were significant), local rulers and families, and other notable artists.

Unger’s edged prose shows us a clear Michelangelo emerging from the stone of history.

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7874-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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