A fresh look at two important writers of the 1920s.



The tale of a famous literary friendship that ended in bitterness.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) and Langston Hughes (1901-1967) were major figures of the Harlem Renaissance and, for several years, collaborators and loving friends. Taylor (co-author: Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop, 2012, etc.), senior editor at the Chicago Review Press, places their friendship at the center of a revealing examination of the alliances, betrayals, rivalries, and aspirations that characterized the African-American literary and arts world in the 1920s and beyond. In 1926, Hurston bestowed the nickname “Niggerati” on the many young writers and artists, “opposed to the literary conventions of the older generation of the black elite,” who gathered in Manhattan for social and literary activities. They were supported—sometimes with publicity, sometimes financially—by admiring white New Yorkers Hurston called “Negrotarians,” including Carl Van Vechten, Hart Crane, Muriel Draper, Max Eastman, Eugene O’Neill, George Gershwin, and H.L. Mencken. Foremost among them was Charlotte Mason, an heiress who inherited her husband’s vast wealth after his death in 1905. Among her passions were parapsychology, psychic healing, and African-Americans and Indians, who she believed were unsullied by “the ills of civilization” and possessed of “primitive creativity and spirituality [that] would energize and renew America.” A major collector of African art, she disdained white culture, declaring herself “eternally black.” In 1927, she decided to become a personal patron to many figures of the Niggerati. She must be called Godmother, she insisted, and demanded nothing less than complete filial devotion in exchange for monthly stipends of $150 (for Hughes) and $200 (for Hurston) to allow them to pursue their work. Mason, Taylor writes, was “a jealous god, controlling and wrathful,” dictating what kind of projects her “children” pursued and, in Hurston’s case, prohibiting her from showing her writing to anyone without Mason’s consent. Drawing on published and archival sources, Taylor creates a perceptive portrait of the bizarre patron and of the Hurston-Hughes friendship.

A fresh look at two important writers of the 1920s.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-24391-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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 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...


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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