Readers looking for the lite version of this tale may still want to fire up the VCR and watch Charlton Heston chew the...

MICHELANGELO AND THE POPE’S CEILING

A legend-busting, richly detailed account of the four-year making of the Sistine Chapel frescos.

When Pope Julius II wasn’t riding off to subdue some unfortunate neighbor during the endless Papal Wars, he was hounding poor Michelangelo—“When will you have this chapel finished?”—to make good on his three-thousand-ducat commission and reveal to an expectant world the mysteries of the Creation. If you’ve put those impatient words in the mouth of Rex Harrison, who brought Julius to the screen in The Agony and the Ecstasy, you’ll know that poor Michelangelo worked alone, racked by the demons of poverty and artistic insecurity, to say nothing of the Inquisition. Not so, writes King (Domino, p. 1337, etc.). It’s not that the pope was a patient or gentle man—from time to time he gave Michelangelo a good clout, and he once threatened to throw the recalcitrant artist off his scaffolding. But Michelangelo was being paid very well for his work and had a squadron of skilled craftsmen at his disposal, and it was they, not he, who spent years on their backs staring up at the ceiling, paintbrush in hand, while Michelangelo was ducking off to check on other commissions in Florence and Bologna. King supplies a richly nuanced view of Michelangelo and company’s day-to-day life in the Sistine Chapel, placing it in the context of the overall Renaissance, a time of plenty of bloodshed and intrigue, but also of extraordinary artistic accomplishment thanks to the likes of Julius, Cesare Borgia, and other noteworthy hotheads. Disputing the now accepted view that Michelangelo was gay (there is no good evidence, King argues, that he had much of any kind of sex life), King examines Michelangelo’s considerable virtues and quirks—one of which, his understandable desire not to show a work until it was done, was to get him into much trouble with his eminent patron.

Readers looking for the lite version of this tale may still want to fire up the VCR and watch Charlton Heston chew the scenery. Those seeking a richer understanding of Renaissance art-making will find this a pleasure.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8027-1395-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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