A book that will have greater appeal to educated travelers to Florence than to specialists in the city.

THE FLORENTINES

FROM DANTE TO GALILEO: THE TRANSFORMATION OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Novelist and historian Strathern returns to Renaissance Florence to survey the graces and disgraces of the city and its people.

If Vanity Fair magazine had existed during the Renaissance, every issue might have brought tales of Florentine A-listers and their power plays, artistic triumphs, sexual exploits, and financial chicanery. Strathern aims to show how such Florentines paved the way for a global humanism focused on people’s lives on Earth instead of on the medieval view that existence was only preparation for an afterlife. The author begins with Dante’s boldness in writing in a Tuscan dialect, rather than Latin, and ends with Galileo’s trial for heresy, which spared him the fate of an earlier heliocentrist who was burned at the stake—“naked, upside down, and with his mouth gagged so that he could not make public his beliefs.” Between the two events, Strathern gives a no-frills, nuts-and-bolts account of the era in which Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa, Machiavelli wrote The Prince, Michelangelo created David, Brunelleschi designed the world’s largest brick-and-mortar dome, and Savonarola planned his “bonfire of the vanities.” Never far from the action were Lorenzo the Magnificent and other Medici bankers whose patronage of artists vastly enriched the city’s glories. This story will be broadly familiar to readers of Strathern’s The Medici and Death in Florence. The author slightly overstates Florence’s impact on the world when epochal upheavals were also occurring elsewhere: the Reformation, Columbus’ voyages, Gutenberg’s printing press. But Strathern is an intellectually agile writer who covers four centuries briskly—an approach well suited to first-time visitors to Florence, if not to scholars—and serves up occasional surprises. Other authors have argued that Leonardo and Michelangelo were gay, but Strathern adds context by noting that Florentines had a “relaxed” view of homosexuality evident in their startling proverb: “If you crave joys fumble some boys.”

A book that will have greater appeal to educated travelers to Florence than to specialists in the city.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-732-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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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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A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

THE AUTHORITY OF THE COURT AND THE PERIL OF POLITICS

Why the Supreme Court deserves the public’s trust.

Based on his 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Breyer offers a selected history of court cases, a defense of judicial impartiality, and recommendations for promoting the public’s respect for and acceptance of the role of the judiciary in the future. The author regrets that many Americans see the justices as “unelected political officials or ‘junior varsity’ politicians themselves, rather than jurists,” asserting that “nearly all” justices apply “the basic same interpretive tools” to decide a case: “They will consider the statute’s text, its history, relevant legal tradition, precedents, the statute’s purposes (or the values that underlie it), and the relevant consequences.” Although Breyer maintains that all try to avoid the influence of ideology or political philosophy, he acknowledges that suggesting “a total and clean divorce between the Court and politics is not quite right either,” since a justice’s background, education, and experiences surely affect their views, especially when considering the consequences of a decision. The judicial process, Breyer explains, begins as a conference held once or twice each week where substantive discussion leads to preliminary conclusions. Sometimes, in order to find a majority, the court will take a minimalist perspective, allowing those who differ “on the broader legal questions to come together in answering narrower ones.” Noting that, in 2016, only 1 in 4 Americans could name the three branches of federal government, Breyer suggests a revival of civics education in schools so that students can learn how government works and what the rule of law is. He believes that confidence in government will result from citizens’ participation in public life: by voting, taking part in local governance such as school boards, and resolving their differences through argument, debate, cooperation, and compromise, all of which are “the embodiment of the democratic ideal.”

A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-26936-1

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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