A lightly investigative biography about a painting’s provenance and its hidden romantic history.

THE HEART

FRIDA KAHLO IN PARIS

A breezy bit of art history about a 1939 affair between the author’s father and Frida Kahlo in Paris.

Combining both research and conjecture, photographer and documentary filmmaker Petitjean attempts to retrace the circumstances of this underdocumented romance. Frida visited Paris in 1939; she left an adulterous Diego Rivera back in Mexico and found herself on an emotional threshold before her European debut in André Breton’s exhibition of Mexican art. While Breton and other surrealists fetishized her foreignness, Michel Petitjean, the author’s father and local gallerist, saw beyond that surface impression. Michel and Frida had a short affair, during which she gave him a small painting called The Heart, which was a fitting token for the man who, for once, saw all of her. The painting, writes the author is “a concentration of the key characteristics in [her] art and her biography: intimacy, identity, physical and psychological suffering, references to Mexican culture, and references to art history.” While the story is transportive and dreamy, the author’s awkward sequencing of facts and loose creative license muddle the scholarly authority. For example, Petitjean doesn’t explain until near the end of the narrative that his father studied Mexican civilizations at the Museum of Ethnography. Stylistically, he often embellishes: He remarks on the subtle implications of Breton’s “tone of voice” and, elsewhere, imagines mental pictures in his father’s mind. He also writes that, one morning during a pain spell, Frida “contemplates each of her organs in turn.” Petitjean is undeterred by a lack of concrete sources: “I do not have any information to know for sure…but by cross-checking the whereabouts, circumstances, and personalities of the protagonists I will attempt to reconstruct the scene.” While prefacing another tangent, he writes, “I imagine, but I may be wrong.” While his heart’s in the right place, the author’s penchant for stylized prose often overwhelms the book’s more academic qualities.

A lightly investigative biography about a painting’s provenance and its hidden romantic history.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59051-990-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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