An intimate look at one of American art history's unsung heroes.

ALICE NEEL

THE ART OF NOT SITTING PRETTY

Culture and arts writer Hoban (Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art, 1998) presents an accessible biography of painter Alice Neel (1900–1984).

Like many creative geniuses, Neel's story as an artist began with a rebellious childhood. From an early age, she turned to art as an outlet to cope with her rejection of turn-of-the-century societal sensibilities. Even at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, Neel felt like an outsider, despite the fact that she was repeatedly recognized for her talent. Later on, her aversion to conformity persisted in her choice of mediums. During the height of abstract expressionism, she forged ahead as a realist painter, producing dark and psychologically revealing portraits of a diverse group of people. She found subjects all around her, from the masses on the New York streets to her well-known artist friends (Andy Warhol, Joe Gould) to her own children, and Neel captured a stark, disarming beauty in all of them. Because her work was often brutally personal—for example, the paintings she produced after the death of her first child—Neel's oeuvre is also extraordinarily reflective of her life and alludes to such issues as her struggle with feminine roles, including motherhood, and her involvement with Marxism and the Communist Party. Amid the personal issues that dogged her—mostly trouble with men and money—Neel remained prolific, slowly gaining professional recognition. In 1970, she was commissioned to paint Kate Millett for the cover of Time, and in 1974, her work appeared as a retrospective at the Whitney. Throughout this moving biography, Hoban allows Neel's triumphs and struggles to inform her experience, and the result is an honest narrative of an artist who always strived to document the truth, however difficult. “No matter what happens to you,” she once said, “you still keep on painting.”

An intimate look at one of American art history's unsung heroes.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-60748-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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