BETTMANN

THE PICTURE MAN

A penniless Jewish emigrant from Nazi Germany finds wealth and happiness in the US. Founder of the Bettmann Archive, perhaps the world's best-known pictorial library, Bettmann knows where his bread is buttered. To illustrate this breezy autobiography, which runs from his birth in 1903 Leipzig to his recent appointment as curator of rare books at Florida Atlantic University, the author picked copious choice examples from his gigantic collection. With the trademark Bettmann penchant for the unusual, the pictures depict everything from Bach's skull to a toenail-cutting machine, and sometimes bear only a distant relation to the text. No matter: Every one is a gem. The prose suffers by comparison, although Bettmann does catch the fairy-tale atmosphere of N.Y.C. immigrant life in the Depression, and has some fascinating memories of the land he left behind (attending a university course taught by Edmund Husserl: ``an absent-minded, goateed Jewish man entered the class, affixed his pince-nez, and began reading in an almost inaudible voice from a prepared text''). Similar little anecdotes enliven Bettmann's tale of how he escaped the Nazis (``some kind of nut,'' one goon muttered when Bettmann crossed the border with his collection stashed in two trunks); married ``a genuine, vital American woman''; and founded the Archive through luck and, as he admits, workaholism. Famous people do walk-throughs (Edward Steichen; Barbara Tuchman; Alfred Kinsey, who buys a hot painting from Bettmann for his Institute for Sex Research). Bettmann describes the pix he never found (a portrait of Daniel Fahrenheit, inventor of the thermometer scale; a painting of Spinoza grinding lenses) and some of his peculiar assignments (cable from Mott: ``Send everything you've got on apples''). Meanwhile, the eye keeps returning to those fabulous pictures (221 b&w).

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 1992

ISBN: 0-8130-1153-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Univ. Press of Florida

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1992

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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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