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A generalist brings together three fields—philosophy, religion and art—often kept separate.

“A small, intimate portrait” illustrating the biography of René Descartes and his ideas.

Nadler (Philosophy/Univ. of Wisconsin; A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age, 2011, etc.) believes that Descartes “belongs as much to the intellectual culture of the Dutch Golden Age as he does to the grand history of Western philosophy whose development he so strongly influenced.” Feeling politically constrained in France, Descartes moved to Holland to work, but his philosophy aroused controversy and opposition in Dutch universities as well. Nadler situates the French philosopher's life in its Dutch context and frames the narrative with an investigation into a few portraits of Descartes. One was supposedly painted by Frans Hals and is in Copenhagen. The author demonstrates that there may be a possibility that one of Descartes’ friends commissioned the portrait from Hals as a memento prior to the philosopher's 1649 departure on a visit to the queen of Sweden. This would have been from the period he lived in the village where he wrote the Discourse on Method and Principles of Philosophy. The friend was the Catholic priest Augustijn Alsten Blomart, who lived in the city of Haarlem, just south of Descartes' country-village home. Blomart, as Nadler shows, was well-integrated into contemporary Dutch literary, artistic, scientific and political circles. Hals also lived and worked in Haarlem. Nadler discusses the extant portraits of the philosopher, as well as their provenance and what is known of the context in which they were produced. He also provides a chronological summary of Descartes’ philosophical works in relation to their Dutch context.

A generalist brings together three fields—philosophy, religion and art—often kept separate.

Pub Date: April 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-691-15730-6

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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