The book is well-written, but the sexual escapades and personality disorders of the principals take so much space that it...

THE UNFINISHED PALAZZO

LIFE, LOVE AND ART IN VENICE: THE STORIES OF LUISA CASATI, DORIS CASTLEROSSE AND PEGGY GUGGENHEIM

Guardian dance critic Mackrell (Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation, 2014, etc.) connects the lives of three unique 20th-century women.

These exceptional women—Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse, and Peggy Guggenheim—found a freedom in Venice that was not available elsewhere in Europe or America. The city was welcoming to all sorts of strange and wonderful people. The construction of the Palazzo Venier began in the mid-18th century as a tribute to a powerful Venetian family, but financial difficulties and failure to produce an heir left a building only one story high and two rooms deep—hence, unfinished. Casati found the near ruin and saw it as a place of poetic mystery. She rented it in 1910 and, leaving the exterior derelict-looking, transformed the interior and garden into a showplace for her soirees and a home for her pets, which included a boa constrictor and cheetah, among others. She was always on show, daring but superficial. The author suggests that Casati may have had Asperger’s syndrome, explaining her idiosyncratic behavior, but she lived the aesthetic life, making her life a work of art to cover her inability to express herself. It was Casati who truly brought the palazzo to life; she had a great deal of money, which she spent easily. Not so her successor Castlerosse, who went from a shopgirl in London to a professional mistress. Her connection to the palazzo is relatively minor compared to Casati’s; Castlerosse’s friend bought it for her in 1938 and hosted only one ball before World War II interfered. Guggenheim is the most intriguing character in the narrative, which occasionally falls victim to bloat. Her love of Venice brought her to the palazzo in 1948 to house her modern art collection, making it one of the most-visited attractions in Venice.

The book is well-written, but the sexual escapades and personality disorders of the principals take so much space that it degenerates into a gossipy tell-all.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-500-51866-3

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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