M

THE MAN WHO BECAME CARAVAGGIO

An exuberant attempt to penetrate the mysteries surrounding the astounding paintings and brief, turbulent life of the Italian artist who has come to be known as Caravaggio. As Robb (Midnight in Sicily, 1998) points out, even the painter’s real name (probably Michelangelo Merisi) is a matter of conjecture, as is his birthplace (Robb opts for Milan). The name Caravaggio comes from a small town in which, according to tradition, the painter had been born, perhaps in 1571 or 1573. His end is as uncertain as his beginning: He disappeared in July, 1610, and was widely assumed to have been murdered, though his body was never discovered. So little known a figure would seem an unpromising subject for a biography. Yet out of the slender documentation, a close and often deeply convincing reading of Caravaggio’s several dozen surviving paintings, and an admirable grasp of the hard realities of life in Italy during the violent expansion of the Counter-Reformation, Robb has written an account that is consistently gripping and generally persuasive. The painter would not seem at first to be a particularly sympathetic figure. He was, according to many who knew him, difficult, often contentious, and sometimes violent. It seems likely that he killed a man. Yet Robb makes a good case that “M,” as he calls him, was difficult at least in part to protect his artistic integrity, which produced revolutionary paintings that embraced harsh reality in a way more cautious painters avoided and the church condemned. Robb’s readings of M’s paintings, including such astonishing works as “The Crucifixion of Saint Peter,” “The Beheading of John the Baptist,” “The Weeping Magdalen,” and “Mary Dead,” are detailed, energetic, and convincing, as is his version of M’s death. A compelling portrait of the painter as outsider and provocateur; a first-rate evocation of both a genius and the violent times in which he lived. (16 pages illus.)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2000

ISBN: 0-8050-6356-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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