Mackrell ties her subjects together by asserting that they all struggled “with the quintessentially contemporary conundrum:...

FLAPPERS

SIX WOMEN OF A DANGEROUS GENERATION

Biography of six women who declared their independence during the Jazz Age.

British heiresses Diana Cooper and Nancy Cunard, Russian artist Tamara de Lempicka, African-American entertainer Josephine Baker, actress Tallulah Bankhead and aspiring writer Zelda Fitzgerald were daring women who defied expectations about what a woman’s life should be. Calling them “flappers,” British dance critic Mackrell (Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs. John Maynard Keynes, 2009, etc.) notes how they were sexually promiscuous, reckless and given to “provocative exuberance.” As Dorothy Parker put it: “All spotlights focus on her pranks. / All tongues her prowess herald. / For which she may well render thanks / to God and Scott Fitzgerald.” It was Fitzgerald, after all, whose short stories publicized boyishly slim young women in short skirts and slinky gowns, drinking gin fizzes and falling giddily into love affairs. He modeled his flappers, he said, on his wife, Zelda, who once remarked, “I think a woman gets more happiness out of being gay…than out of a career that calls for hard work, intellectual pessimism and loneliness.” Although Mackrell’s subjects took advantage of postwar hedonism, unlike Zelda, the others showed no reluctance to work hard. Cooper became a respected actress; Cunard, a poet, publisher and political activist; Bankhead devoted herself tirelessly to her acting career; Lempicka, who had fled Russia after the revolution, reinvented herself as a painter; Baker hired tutors to shape her as a performer. Zelda was deeply unhappy: Her writing career never took off; her marriage was blighted by anger, infidelity and alcohol; and finally, she succumbed to recurring mental breakdowns.

Mackrell ties her subjects together by asserting that they all struggled “with the quintessentially contemporary conundrum: how to combine career and family, self-interest, marriage and love,” but readers of this gossipy collective biography are unlikely to identify with their struggle. What these women shared most strongly were the glittering allure and tragic consequences of celebrity.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-15608-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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