A fresh look at Rome’s vast grandeur during the 17th century.



A vibrant journey to Baroque Rome.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), acclaimed as the “genius of the Baroque,” is the focus of Grossman’s engaging, sumptuously illustrated history of 17th-century Rome, when grand architectural and artistic projects, commissioned by a succession of popes, transformed the city dramatically. The son of well-regarded sculptor Pietro Bernini, Gian’s talent was evident when he was as young as 11. By the time he was in his 20s, he was a recognized master, and his career soared during the 21 years of the papacy of Urban VIII, when “a flood of papal commissions” made him spectacularly wealthy. Even under Innocent X, Urban’s successor and foe, Bernini managed to navigate political intrigue and turbulence to maintain his status as Rome’s preeminent sculptor and architect. His most important patron, however, was the physically frail Alexander VII. By 1650, after the Thirty Years’ War and the Protestant Reformation, with papal political influence waning and the power of France’s Louis XIV growing, Alexander “turned ever more inward, lavishing more time, attention and money on his projects for Rome.” Public works of art, he believed, reflected his spiritual and diplomatic power, and he saw in the swirling, sensuous, theatrical Baroque a style focused only on “heightening the drama of life.” Grossman portrays Bernini as a self-promoter with a “prodigious” work ethic; a man who could display “arrogance, quick temper, and sharp tongue” but also a tendency to be self-critical. A self-portrait, reproduced in this book, shows “piercing eyes, a dark piratical look, and a sense of tremendous physical and intellectual energy.” He directed that energy toward managing a huge workshop, which, at one time or another, employed “almost every sculptor of talent in Rome.” An added bonus, Grossman’s guide to an Obelisk Walk of Rome, appended to his narrative, highlights many of Bernini’s works.

A fresh look at Rome’s vast grandeur during the 17th century.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-740-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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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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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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