A close, unblinking look at a bright star with some internal darkness.

AMERICAN TITAN

SEARCHING FOR JOHN WAYNE

A veteran biographer of pop-culture icons (Cary Grant, Walt Disney, Clint Eastwood) returns with an account of the astonishing film career of Marion Robert Morrison (1907-1979).

Eliot (Nicholson: A Biography, 2013, etc.) dispenses with much one might expect in a thick biography—e.g., interviews with those who knew Wayne, sordid sexual details (the author does show us an actor who enjoyed relations with myriads of women) or pompous declarations about what Wayne symbolized. Instead, he focuses on the career of the Duke (the name of a boyhood dog), carefully charting his rise from a modest Iowa family—his father, who frequently failed and eventually left, was sometimes a druggist—to his enduring status as one of Hollywood’s most popular actors, despite his intransigent right-wing political views in a left-wing community. Nothing happened quickly. Wayne worked behind the scenes and took modest walk-on parts before gradually finding his place as an actor. It was John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) that ignited his career, though even then he did not leap to stardom. More minor (and bad and horrible) films followed, and Eliot, to his credit, pulls no punches in his assessments of Wayne’s performances. However, the author also agrees with Wayne’s conviction that the liberal Hollywood establishment denied him Oscar nominations even for his finest roles—in The Searchers, for example, a 1956 film (and Wayne performance) that Eliot continually praises. Eliot is careful to quote reviews of key performances, to let us know the box office successes (and failures) and to give us a peek at Wayne’s behavior on the set. We also see his relationships with key directors John Ford and Howard Hawks, and there are plenty of touching moments—e.g., Wayne’s final appearance at the Oscars shortly before he died of stomach cancer.

A close, unblinking look at a bright star with some internal darkness.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0062269003

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more