An enchanting book about the transformative power of art.



A memoir exploring how Johannes Vermeer’s paintings bestow bountiful gifts.

Poet White (Creative Writing/Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington; Vermeer in Hell, 2014, etc.) was stunned when he first saw Vermeer’s The Milkmaid during a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. “Stillness. Not emptiness but stillness,” he thought as he gazed at the figure of the milkmaid. “A great soul balanced there.” When he discovered that only 35 of the artist’s works are on view in the world, he decided to see them all: in The Hague, Washington’s National Gallery, New York’s Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and London’s Kenwood House, Royal Collection and National Gallery. In this lyrical memoir, the author recounts his travels in search of Vermeer, set in the context of love, loss and pain: a difficult childhood, alcoholism and recovery, the grueling death of his first wife and, most recently, a wrenching divorce. Along the way, he tells of two unpromising dates with women he met online; his love for his young daughter; and his frustration over the custody fight that will limit his seeing her. Vermeer’s “radiant canvases” serve as an antidote to his enervating sense of loss: “The rapturous inner life of each woman and the infinitesimally detailed and self-contained life of the street are each imagined as an undiscovered heaven on earth.” White’s descriptions are sensuous, precise and evocative. He describes one painting as a “dialogue between Vermeer’s favorite colors [that] pervades the entire atmosphere of the room.” A window “seductively refracts the world rather than revealing it, and in so doing makes it seem new and strange.” The figures communicate with one another in “a circular, closed system of glances.” White praises Vermeer for his sensitivity to “anatomies of intimate, unguarded moments,” a sensitivity that White himself brings to his luminous readings of the paintings.

An enchanting book about the transformative power of art.

Pub Date: March 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-89255-437-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Persea Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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 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 19, 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...


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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