Livelier and gossipier than Terry Teachout’s earnest primer, All the Dances (p. 953), though less explicitly instructive...

GEORGE BALANCHINE

THE BALLET MAKER

Another brief biography published to coincide with the centennial of the legendary choreographer’s birth, gaining color and immediacy from the author’s behind-the-scenes knowledge of the New York City Ballet.

Gottlieb, former editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker, served on the NYCB board of directors for more than a decade and knew Balanchine personally, though not intimately. The author makes excellent use of quotations from his subject and from generations of dancers’ memoirs to vividly capture the choreographer’s personality. Early chapters on Balanchine’s youth in Russia and apprentice years at the Ballets Russes in Paris highlight the charm and calm professionalism that enabled him to make radical breaks with ballet tradition without alienating his dancers—as seen in such late 1920s masterpieces as Apollo and Prodigal Son. As the narrative moves on to Balanchine’s rootless early years in America, working on Broadway and in Hollywood while he struggled to establish his own school and company, Gottlieb continues to emphasize the important role played by the women and men who studied with Mr. B and incarnated his visions in the flesh. (For once, Diana Adams, Allegra Kent, Melissa Hayden, Jacques d’Amboise, Edward Villella and Peter Martins get equal time with Balanchine’s more famous muses/wives.) Gottlieb began attending the ballet in 1948, NYCB’s inaugural season, and his descriptions of such historic premieres as Firebird, Agon, Stars and Stripes and Don Quixote benefit from his firsthand knowledge. Readers will also get a solid understanding of the backstage contributions made by NYCB administrators Lincoln Kirstein, Betty Cage, Eddie Bigelow and Barbara Horgan. At the center of it all stands the choreographer, much loved (even by his ex-wives) yet fundamentally unknowable, more deeply engaged with his art than with other human beings. Since Balanchine took that art form to new heights over the course of his lifetime, that doesn’t seem like such a tragic trade-off.

Livelier and gossipier than Terry Teachout’s earnest primer, All the Dances (p. 953), though less explicitly instructive about Balanchine’s historic significance. Ballet lovers, of course, will want to read both.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-075070-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2004

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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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