REX HARRISON

A BIOGRAPHY

Not very stylish biography of Harrison (1908-90), by Wapshott (Peter O'Toole, 1984). Born Reginald Carey Harrison, the future Henry Higgins was a sickly boy, ``cosseted and nursed by his mother and spoilt by his two sisters, who treated him as a doll to pet and coddle''—which, Wapshott says, set the pattern for his lifelong lack of deep male friendships and need for six wives. While he became a leading Shavian, Harrison found Shakespeare's language too much to handle, never played the Bard after failing as a messenger in Richard III, and, instead, achieved acclaim for his urbanity as a light comedian—although he later stretched himself for his praised Caesar in the Burtons' Cleopatra, for Pirandello, and for the odd serious role. For all the love the world bestowed on him, he apparently was a rude, abysmally self-centered husband who crushed his wives and tromped on his fellow actors. The two great tragedies of his life were the suicide of his mistress, actress Carole Landis, while he was married to Lilli Palmer, and the death from myeloid leukemia of his third wife, Kay Kendall. Harrison kept the fatal nature of her illness a secret from Kendall, who also had been his mistress while he was married to Palmer, who divorced Harrison so that he could marry Kendall for her last year or so, with plans for remarriage once Kendall was dead. When they did not remarry, and Harrison downplayed Palmer's kindness in his autobiography (Rex, 1973, lightly updated in his A Damned Serious Business, 1990), Palmer set the truth straight in her own autobiography. Later, Terrence Rattigan wrote After Lydia, a play about Palmer's last days with Harrison, and Harrison played himself (as a crabbed literary critic) on stage—but only after defanging the critic into a jolly fine chap. Wapshott tells all this rather solemnly, allowing Harrison's waspishness to take on an irresistible gleam through the windowpane prose. (Sixteen pages of b&w photos—not seen.)

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-670-83947-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1992

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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 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

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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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