Cliché and hyperbole vitiate this pathetic parable, whose larger cultural significance struggles for attention amid detailed...

AMERICAN EVE

EVELYN NESBIT, STANFORD WHITE, THE BIRTH OF THE “IT” GIRL, AND THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY

Uruburu (English/Hofstra Univ.) sees the sensational, salacious career of Evelyn Nesbit as a cautionary tale about a preternaturally beautiful pubescent Red Ridinghood surrounded by hungry wolves in the dark woods of early 20th-century Manhattan.

Born on Christmas day near Pittsburgh, Pa., probably in 1884 (her mother was always vague about the year), Nesbit lost her father at 11 and by age 13 was supporting her family as an artist’s model. In late 1900, she came with her brother and mother to New York City, where she became a wildly popular subject for painters and photographers. (A generous selection of illustrations shows why.) Nesbit was the first in an American procession of very young, very attractive girls who all eventually disappeared down celebrity’s maw, writes the author. She attracted the notice of powerful moneyed men, including architect Stanford White and insane Harry K. Thaw, scion of a Pittsburgh fortune, who eventually married Nesbit and in 1906 shot and killed White in view of a crowd on the roof of Madison Square Garden. At the ensuing trials (the first ended with a hung jury), Nesbit told the sordid story of how White had paid her mother to take a trip out of town in 1901 and leave 16-year-old Evelyn in his care; he then plied her with champagne and raped her in his Garden tower. Her scandalous testimony reversed the arc of Nesbit’s fame, sending her into a 60-year decline, years covered swiftly in the book’s final paragraphs. Uruburu accepts Nesbit’s version of the events throughout, quoting liberally from her two memoirs and portraying her as an innocent victim of powerful men and a bad mother. The author’s stout defense is sometimes couched in prose as florid as that of the fin-de-siècle journalism she deplores: “Seconds later, a startlingly loud gunshot pierced the torpid night air.”

Cliché and hyperbole vitiate this pathetic parable, whose larger cultural significance struggles for attention amid detailed accounts of the rapacious principals’ perversions.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59448-993-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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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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