A splendid biography that penetrates the inner lives of Kahn’s buildings as well as the inner life of their creator.

YOU SAY TO BRICK

THE LIFE OF LOUIS KAHN

A new, in-depth biography of the noted American architect.

Threepenny Review founder and editor Lesser (Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books, 2014, etc.) begins her stellar biography at the end, with Kahn’s death (1901-1974). At the time, the renowned architect, who was “famous for his energy,” was “tired.” He had just returned from a long overseas trip and had a heart attack in Penn Station in New York. Lesser describes Kahn as “affable, conciliatory, and a bit self-mocking,” warm and captivating but secretive (he had two affairs while married). His output was small, but his best buildings were “beautiful in a surprising new way.” Kahn came to America from Estonia in 1906 when he was 5, his young face and hands scarred from a fiery accident. Always a brilliant drawer (he was ambidextrous), he received a good education and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1924. In 1935, he worked on a new workers’ housing project in Washington, D.C., and soon started his own firm. In 1954, “I discovered myself after designing that little concrete-block bath house in Trenton.” Concrete and brick would forever be his favorite construction materials. Lesser punctuates the narrative with five lengthy sections of “ ‘in situ’ descriptions of what it feels like to move through his built structures.” The author visited them all. Included are the Salk Institute in San Diego (1959), with its enormous, distinctive plaza. It would be the “only profitable project that Kahn ever undertook.” Also included is his “most supremely beautiful accomplishment,” the National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which was the biggest project he ever took on and “in many ways the most difficult.” Extensively researched, the book is full of quotes from letters and interviews, providing an intimate portrait of his personality and genius.

A splendid biography that penetrates the inner lives of Kahn’s buildings as well as the inner life of their creator.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-27997-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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