A fine, if familiar, portrayal of a bold, vulnerable, questing artist.

PICASSO AND THE PAINTING THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD

Pablo Picasso’s artistic evolution culminated in one huge, irreverent, iconoclastic painting.

Economist contributor Unger (Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces, 2014, etc.), former managing editor of Art New England, focuses on Picasso’s masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon to examine the artist’s early career. This period of Picasso’s life has been recounted in detail in memoirs (by his mistress Fernande Olivier, for example, and his friends André Salmon and Gertrude Stein), histories (Roger Shattuck’s The Banquet Years stands out), and biographies by art historians and scholars. Unger synthesizes this material into a graceful narrative but offers little new. He has uncovered, however, an unpleasant episode in Picasso’s life when he and Fernande adopted a 13-year-old orphan, perhaps because Fernande “thought that a child in their life would bring them closer together.” The project failed: after four months, it became clear that the girl’s presence “was putting unbearable strains on an already strained situation,” and the girl was sent back to the orphanage, escorted by their ever patient and loyal friend Max Jacob. Unger’s Picasso is intense, brilliant—exuding “a dangerous charisma”—and selfish: his ability to compartmentalize “often amounted to callousness, particularly when an emotional entanglement threatened to interfere with his work.” He was superstitious, seeing “magic in form and meaning in coincidence.” For Picasso, Unger asserts, “art was not primarily a visual language but a method of manipulating unseen forces. Cubism was an attempt to invest the image with a potency greater than mere illusion.” His belief in magical forces attracted him to African art, especially fetishes, and to “worn, rubbed, threadbare objects that carry the marks of human usage.” He was a hoarder, as well, and many of his “humble scraps” made their ways into his paintings and sculptures. Unger offers perceptive descriptions of many of Picasso’s major works, not least Les Demoiselles, a painting “too desperate, too restless, too multivalent, to serve as the manifesto of any movement.”

A fine, if familiar, portrayal of a bold, vulnerable, questing artist.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9421-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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