Penn has a pleasing ability to be serious and funny at the same time. A story well worth hearing.

YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS

How the ambitious, idealistic son of Indian immigrants became a force for change as both a beloved comic actor and an accidental public servant.

Though some news stories about Penn's memoir tout it as a coming-out story, that topic is barely mentioned in this personal history. Bullied for his ethnic background from kindergarten onward, the author points to seeing the Mira Nair film Mississippi Masala at 15 as a life-changing experience, primarily because "brown people" are on screen doing something besides "eating monkey brains," and secondarily because "having sex with someone like Denzel Washington might be a real possibility someday!" Nevertheless, he writes, "discovering my sexuality was still a ways off,” and he doesn’t mention it further until the charming account of finding his current partner during the period he worked in the Obama White House for the Office of Public Engagement. What he does discuss in depth is the outrageous casual racism that plagued every phase of his career, from the agent who wouldn’t meet him in his college days at UCLA, because "you might play a cabdriver once or twice, but it wouldn’t be worth his time and effort to represent someone who isn’t going to work regularly,” all the way through NBC's rough handling of Penn's dream project, Sunnyside, in 2019. After being forced to do an Indian accent during a one-line appearance on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Penn almost lost the part of a character named “Taj Mahal Badalandabad” in Van Wilder to a White actor in brownface. The one place that the author found diversity and equity was the Obama campaign. His involvement there, and then in the White House, is recounted with characteristic humility and good humor. No mention is made of the Trump years or the pandemic, which seems just as well.

Penn has a pleasing ability to be serious and funny at the same time. A story well worth hearing.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982171-38-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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