An intermittently intriguing yet baroque investigation of an artist that leaves readers wanting more.

ALBERT AND THE WHALE

ALBRECHT DÜRER AND HOW ART IMAGINES OUR WORLD

An examination of the works and influences of the German Renaissance painter.

In his latest, Hoare—the author of biographies of Stephen Tennant, Oscar Wilde, and Noël Coward, among other books—explores the works of renowned painter and printmaker Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). The book features striking renditions of the artist’s popular paintings and sketches, but the text is florid and often difficult to follow, jumping from analyses of Dürer’s artwork to lengthy discussions of other individuals with little apparent connection to the artist. Furthermore, Hoare doesn’t include clear attributions when quoting the artist, and the connection between the artist and a whale, as indicated by the book’s title, is exaggerated. According to the author, Dürer sailed to Zeeland in hopes of viewing a whale; however, the trip was not a success, and whales never became a subject of his artwork. In an attempt to create a connection, Hoare digresses from his study of his biographical subject to the topic of whales, including discussions of Moby-Dick and the works of writers and other artists who depicted whales. (Readers interested in the author’s explorations of whales should consult his engaging 2010 book The Whale.) “Had Dürer seen even one whale,” writes Hoare, “his art would have preempted Melville’s mutterings about how you can’t tell the true nature of the whale from its bones alone, and how no one ever painted a less monstrous picture of a whale, despite the fact that the writer was born, half Dutch, in New Amsterdam, and claimed his eyes were tender as young sperms. The pale usher of Moby-Dick tells us the word whale came from the Dutch wallen, to roll, to wallow. We wallow in our ignorance.” For fans of art history, the portions of the book directly related to Dürer and how his interactions with nature influenced his art are fascinating.

An intermittently intriguing yet baroque investigation of an artist that leaves readers wanting more.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-726-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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A Trump idolator’s dream book. Everyone else should stay far away.

THE CHIEF'S CHIEF

Donald Trump’s former chief of staff serves up servile homage to a man he’s sure will make a comeback bid in 2024.

No president could ask for a more fawning yes man than Meadows. Trump is a genius, a savior, the author avers in this cliché-stuffed, formulaic celebration. He’s a bulwark against what Trump calls “the Radical Left Democrat Communist Party.” That speech he gave at Mount Rushmore, if anyone remembers it? “One of the finest in American history.” Of course, Trump, God’s personal pick, didn’t really lose the 2020 election. When things go wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. For example, Trump appointed Kavanaugh and Gorsuch to the Supreme Court only for them to rule “in ways that were deeply disappointing to the MAGA movement that had made their appointments possible.” Thanks to Pelosi and the Dems, the economy, formerly strong “due to the work of President Trump and his advisors,” tanked during the pandemic. Speaking of which, “had it not been for the China Virus, we could have spent the past months reaching more voters and running up our historic vote totals even higher”—not to mention battling Fauci, Milley, and countless other enemies. If there’s a conspiracy to be found or an enemy to be named, Meadows does so. Sometimes he falls off message, as when he writes of a typical campaign rally, “the energy of these patriots, all united for a common cause, celebrating their prosperity and patriotism in a shared space, is something you can’t describe until you’re in the middle of the crowd with them.” Prosperity or forgotten/downtrodden Americans: You can’t have it both ways. As for the Jan. 6 mob? All Meadows can muster is a pale “what occurred that day was shameful”—with the immediate deflection that a few bad apples spoiled a noble showing of support for their heroic leader.

A Trump idolator’s dream book. Everyone else should stay far away.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73747-852-2

Page Count: 308

Publisher: All Seasons Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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