A study that belabors the obvious and provides little illumination.

THE ART OF YOUTH

CRANE, CARRINGTON, GERSHWIN, AND THE NATURE OF FIRST ACTS

Delbanco (English/Univ. of Michigan) must have intended this as a bookend to his earlier study, Lastingness: The Art of Old Age (2011). Through a selection process that seems arbitrary, he focuses on (in chronological order) author Stephen Crane, painter Dora Carrington and composer George Gershwin.

“I wanted figures close to our own historical moment yet sufficiently removed so perspective can be gained,” writes the author. “[T]hey are of our time and place, though not precisely in it, and we have the advantage of hindsight when assessing their careers.” Plenty of others could have made the cut, but these three in particular are distinguished more by their differences than what they have in common: two Americans, one Brit; one suicide, one dead as the result of ill health, one blindsided by a tumor; one extremely well known: “As a songwriter, composer, performer, Gershwin has few if any equals in this nation’s history,” one very little known: “the most neglected serious painter of her time” though one who “accomplished so little and is so little known,” one who is mainly known for one novel, though he preferred his poems and was a masterful writer of short stories. Each has a chapter, which is mainly a biographical sketch with some criticism of their work interwoven, and each inspires the sort of what-if conjecture, that can never be answered or supported, concerning the artistic progression of such artists if they had lived through a second act. As Delbanco writes of Gershwin, “It’s hard to guess what would have happened had he progressed to middle or old age….Maturation takes time.” He later suggests that “the art of youth” is “best summarized by a single word: ‘energy.’ ” A coda covers the author’s own experience, with a first novel that earned prominence that later fiction didn’t sustain.

A study that belabors the obvious and provides little illumination.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-544-11446-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amazon/New Harvest

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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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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