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 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...


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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