An educational summary and analysis of a most miraculous cultural era.

MODERNISM

THE LURE OF HERESY: FROM BAUDELAIRE TO BECKETT AND BEYOND

A veteran cultural historian weighs in with an encyclopedic account of the fecund 120 years that engendered artists as varied and brilliant as Frank Lloyd Wright, T. S. Eliot and Marcel Proust.

Like a playwright or director, Gay (Schnitzler’s Century: The Making of Middle-Class Culture, 1815–1914, 2001, etc.) sets the scene and describes the principal players, then brings them onstage, watches them perform and gives them notes afterward. His range and erudition are bewildering—is there a modernist novel, poem or play he has not read? A painting, sculpture, film or building he has not seen? He deals with many players in perfunctory fashion, but to numerous others—the notables—he devotes a few pages each (there is room for no more tonnage in this tome). He begins with the “founders” of the movement—Baudelaire, Monet and Oscar Wilde among them—and moves on to the painters and sculptors, featuring van Gogh, Munch, Beckmann and Picasso. Then it’s off to the writers, with special attention to Joyce and Woolf. In this section, he occasionally loses control of his usually restrained prose. “Like a seasoned animal tamer,” he writes, “Woolf cracked her whip on her prose and made the most feral brute cringe at her orders.” Proust and Kafka also merit much attention before the music begins and the dancers leap onto the stage. Mahler, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Balanchine compose and cavort before it’s time for the architects—Wright, Le Corbusier, the Bauhausers and others. The theater and the cinema follow, and Gay enshrines Eisenstein, Chaplin and Welles in his Modernist museum. A final ominous chapter assesses the effects of 20th-century totalitarian governments on the Modernists. He concludes with the rather patent commonplace that “the principal effect of fascism on the arts, then, was negative.”

An educational summary and analysis of a most miraculous cultural era.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-393-05205-3

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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