MixedThe Star TribuneStahr doubles down on feminist issues while she expresses lush appreciation of Frida’s flamboyance, her spectacular attire, her rising celebrity, her exceptional talent. There are interesting contrasts, both cogent and unintended. Kahlo’s art was direct and ambiguous, erotic and androgynous, surrealist and mythic. Stahr describes her charismatic subject in lackluster terms ... This volume itself is nicely designed and decorated with animist devices, though sparsely illustrated—sadly for a book about an artist and her art. Stahr’s text compensates with detailed descriptions of particular pictures, but the eight pages of illustrations leave a Kahlo fan hungry for more.
PositiveThe Washington TimesThe Splendid and the Vile tells of a resonant time when a ship-of-state flounders through chartless seas with a feckless harlequin on the bridge while citizen-passengers argue and anguish ... Mr. Larson’s track record will boost this book’s success, of course ... Mr. Larson’s forte is to follow oblique avenues into intersections of history, then reveal both his focused subject and its awesome context with clarity, complexity and verve. So be it here ... Mr. Larson salts his copiously researched recap with choice details ... Regrettably, like its central subject, the volume is overweight. Approaching 600 pages, the count would be 100 less but for the spaced-out headings, dividers, blanks and other design gimmicks. Like a lazy sophomore padding a term paper, Random House chose to make a bigger book, to fill a 10-pound bag with nine pounds of goods — albeit pretty good goods.
RaveThe Washington TimesPart travelogue, part historical album, part contemporary contemplation, Spying on the South is all vintage Horwitz. Awkwardly long, magisterially researched and curiously intimate, it is rich in delicious tangents and mind-bending excursions into cul-de-sacs of Americana — from contemporarily absurd to historically heinous ... Mr. Horwitz connects the disparate dots into indelible images ... Droll and wise, this harlequin narrative celebrates the sublime and ridiculous, do-si-do-ing from hilarious to solemn and sad to cautionary.
PositiveThe Washington TimesNow comes a book about osteology that nearly promises to tell the reader almost all about bones except how to pick them ... Switek offers a compendium of organic chemistry, medical history, social science and institutional ethics ... It is a handsome book, the bi-colored dust jacket skeleton notwithstanding ... Mr. Switek’s core subject, bones, offers departure points for numerous tangents, including his disquisition on the current hot topic of the ownership of cultural remains, including bodies and bones.