INFINITE VARIETY

THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF THE MARCHESA CASATI

She strolled Venice’s Piazza San Marco clad only in a fur cloak, escorted by pet cheetahs on jeweled leashes; she adorned herself with snakes, live and stuffed, and accessorized an evening costume with chicken blood. She was a Belle Epoque eccentric, big time. Luisa Casati was also extraordinarily wealthy in her own right, heir to a Milanese cotton fortune and wife of an Italian noble. Her marriage began to disintegrate after just a few years, when she began an affair—and a lifelong friendship—with Italian poet and writer Gabriele D‘Annunzio. Here she began to re-create herself, evolving from a rather shy, conformist young woman to the flamboyant pale-faced redhead, her remarkable green eyes rimmed by kohl, who would be the subject of more than 130 portraits, many by famous artists. She decorated a villa in Rome, refurbished a Venetian palazzo (now the Peggy Guggenheim museum), and threw extravagant parties and costume balls, mingling socialites and her newfound artist friends. As illustrator—graphic designer Ryersson and film critic Yaccarino describe it, her behavior grew increasingly bizarre—life-size wax replicas of herself and others were seated as guests at dinner parties—but she continued to intrigue serious artists like Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, and Augustus John, who was her lover briefly and a friend until she died. Eventually, her self-indulgent life style left her $25 million in debt; in 1932 her personal possessions were auctioned off. She resettled in England, sinking into poverty so acute that it was a choice between food for herself or for her dogs. (The dogs won.) Her life was the inspiration for a play starring Vivien Leigh and an Ingrid Bergman film. Casati died in 1957, her tombstone inscribed: “Age can not wither nor custom stale her infinite variety.” In essence, a predictably superficial superstar bio—Cher at the turn of the century, as it were. (42 b&w, 8 color illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-9670527-2-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1999

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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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