Certainly a definitive portrait, especially considering Garelick’s intriguing venture into modern “branding.”

MADEMOISELLE

COCO CHANEL AND THE PULSE OF HISTORY

An admiring but evenhanded portrait of Coco Chanel’s (1883-1971) life and loves.

Cultural biographer Garelick (Electric Salome: Loie Fuller's Performance of Modernism, 2007, etc.) fully acknowledges the spate of recent research into Chanel’s wartime collaboration with the Nazis from her Hotel Ritz perch in occupied Paris—e.g., Hal Vaughan’s hard-hitting Sleeping with the Enemy (2011). Though providing no new revelations, Garelick offers a fine psychological portrait of the poor orphaned girl who spent seven years in an abbey, where she learned to sew and feel safety within its reassuring order and cleanliness (traits with which she would later imbue her couture). From working as a seamstress with her aunt Adrienne, then trying her luck as a backing singer in cafes and “water girl” in the Vichy spas, she possessed charm rather than beauty and, more than anything, the drive to attain her freedom the only way she knew how: with lots of money. A companion to rich playboys, she found in Englishman Arthur Capel a like-minded feminist partner; he set her up making hats out of his Paris apartment, then among the fledgling clothing boutiques in Deauville and Biarritz. A natural saleswoman and commander of workers, she succeeded smashingly on her own terms, adopting mannish, comfortable clothing that freed the feminine form from corsets and bindings, elevating cheap jersey and faux pearls as elements of high style, and essentially remaking the female silhouette in her own image: boyish, slim-hipped, flat-chested and athletic. Garelick pursues the catalog of Chanel’s subsequent ill-fated lovers, her work with the Ballets Russes, her vast earnings from Chanel No. 5 and her fraught partnership with the Wertheimer brothers while frankly discussing her relentless, social-climbing attraction to right-wing, reactionary and racist elements.

Certainly a definitive portrait, especially considering Garelick’s intriguing venture into modern “branding.”

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6952-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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