A useful introduction to the man who established photographs as both works of art and important historical documents.

MATHEW BRADY

PORTRAITS OF A NATION

The editor of the American Scholar tracks the career of America’s pioneering photographer.

“Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president.” Harmless flattery, perhaps, but Abraham Lincoln’s remark testified to the influence of his 1860 speech in New York City and to the widely distributed photograph taken that day by Mathew Brady (circa 1822–1896). With studios in New York and Washington, D.C., and already famous as a portraitist, Brady’s galleries grew to contain a who’s who of 19th-century distinction: writers like Poe, Cooper, Twain and Whitman; presidents from Quincy Adams to McKinley; statesmen like Clay, Calhoun and Webster; military leaders like John C. Fremont and Winfield Scott; and distinguished visitors like the Prince of Wales. Brady lured the well-heeled and, increasingly, the middle class through his doors to be similarly immortalized by the new technology that he and his assistants mastered and advanced. When the Civil War arrived, Brady and his team of photographers went into the field, and their unprecedented, comprehensive images of camp life, battlegrounds and soldiers documented the national catastrophe for all time. Wilson (The Explorer King: Adventure, Science, and the Great Diamond Hoax—Clarence in the Old West, 2006, etc.) concedes from the beginning that little is known about Brady’s personal life—not even the place or date of his birth—but the author compensates with a thorough tracking and assessment of the professional career, describing for general readers the origins and swift growth of the photographic science, the team of variously skilled workers required to make the earliest images, and the controversies over photo attribution that persist. Wilson paints Brady as the consummate ringmaster, with a Barnum-like talent for selling himself and his product and for gathering and distributing images that made the phrase “photo by Brady” seemingly ubiquitous.

A useful introduction to the man who established photographs as both works of art and important historical documents.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-203-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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