On virtually every page is something to learn, something to remember, something to smooth the fur or raise the hackles—or...

PUCCINI WITHOUT EXCUSES

An idiosyncratic source book on Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924).

Berger’s third installment in his series on significant opera composers (Verdi with a Vengeance, 2000, etc.) follows the same general intent as previous editions: Cram between the covers as much fact and judgment and even attitude as the market will bear. Here Berger includes an artistic apologia, a biography, a summary and analysis of the operas, descriptions of productions, a sketch of the composer’s place in popular culture and a list and critique of audio and video recordings. There is no gainsaying Berger’s mastery of his subject—or the vast dimensions of his research. He teaches in a patient, if at times tendentious, way. He makes few assumptions about his readers’ musical knowledge and in most cases eschews hyper-technical explanations of Puccini’s craft and art. Throughout, he employs allusions to popular culture (hoping to attract general readers?). The Beatles, Courtney Love, Cecil B. DeMille, the Seven Dwarves and Wile E. Coyote all make unexpected cameos. Berger instructs (in Turandot, the final syllable is pronounced doat), entertains (he describes a production of Madama Butterfly that ended with the detonation of an A-bomb) and amuses (Puccini wrote to his sister that comely American women could “make the Tower of Pisa stand erect”) And everywhere he opines. In Angelica, he says, one character is “perhaps the single biggest bitch in all opera (no mean accomplishment).” General readers will find most useful the swift biography, the summaries and commentaries on the operas and the recordings thereof; many will find merely puzzling (if not narcotizing) a long turgid essay that, among much else, rehashes Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy and its distinction between Apollonian and Dionysian principles. Opera-lovers and aficionados will either love to hate or hate to love this text.

On virtually every page is something to learn, something to remember, something to smooth the fur or raise the hackles—or both.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-7778-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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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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