A savory slice of art history, rich in incident, long in mystery. (8-page b&w photo insert, not seen)

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THE PORTLAND VASE

THE EXTRAORDINARY ODYSSEY OF A MYSTERIOUS ROMAN TREASURE

An exciting adventure out of the ancient Roman vase, delivered with a lighthanded, perspicacious historical tour of its times and travels.

The Portland Vase isn’t just any old piece of crockery. Some 2,000 years old, this small, squat container, cobalt blue with white figures in relief settled amid trees and rocks, is special, writes Brooks, because it is made of glass. Layered and cameoed, it is “the best-preserved work of the most highly skilled craftsmen in the ancient world, a pinnacle of the glassmaker’s art,” he declares. Here, he traces what is known of the vase’s peregrinations from cardinal to pope to English nobility, along the way serving up fine bits of historical matter, from the process by which the early popes were elected to wild battles in the Scottish Highland to sharp, vest-pocket biographies of the owners. And what a cast of characters: Urban VIII, Prince of Excess, owned the vase at one time; the Princess of Palestrina sold it to pay her gambling debts; Josiah Wedgwood held it for a year to copy its figures; its penultimate destination was into the hands of the Dukes of Portland. (While on loan to the British Museum, where it now resides, the vase was smashed by a troubled soul and has subsequently been assembled and reassembled as any times as Joe Namath's knees.) To a man and woman, the owners of the vase had captivating histories themselves, and Brooks, who writes radio plays for the BBC, combines their stories with the saga of the vase’s pilgrimage with gratifying élan, a fine sense of the dramatic, and a deep appreciation for the object. The author also unravels the shady scholarship that surrounded the vase through much of its odyssey and gives well-mulled consideration to contemporary theories as to its figures and provenance.

A savory slice of art history, rich in incident, long in mystery. (8-page b&w photo insert, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-051099-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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