THE LETTERS OF VINCENT VAN GOGH

A new translation of van Gogh's ebullient letters (including some never before published), edited by the director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, revealing the painter to be an intensely observant and passionate man, struggling to understand and overcome the episodes of mental illness that so damaged his life. To the average person, van Gogh is the apotheosis of the mad genius, but his letters, written between 1872 and 1890, mostly to his brother, Theo, tell a different story. To be sure, he found it difficult to submit to an office job. He refused to become a baker, as his sister suggested, or a preacher, which was his father's line of work. And although his letters are filled with conviction about painting, he felt guilty throughout his life for depending on Theo and periodically lapsed into despondency, worrying, as do many artists, that his labors might ultimately be futile: ``At the moment I'm working on some plum trees, yellowy white, with thousands of black branches. I am using up an enormous amount of canvases and paints, but I hope it's not a waste of money for all that.'' Doubt was dispelled by his earnest love of nature and art. It's strange, nonetheless, to read a chipper description of an orchard, only to discover that a few days after the letter was written van Gogh was stalking his good friend Gauguin with a razor blade. Despite his efforts to keep working, the attacks increased in frequency and severity. One can sense the fear of imminent collapse gnawing away at his exuberance. Either in the grip of another episode, or fearing it, van Gogh committed suicide in July 1890. His heartbroken brother died less than a year later. The hardest thing for an artist, van Gogh noted in one letter, is to capture ``the true and the essential.'' These letters reveal the extraordinary personal struggle that lay behind his triumphant ability to do so. (49 pen-and-ink sketches)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-713-99135-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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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