There’s no magic, black or otherwise, in this cut-and-paste bio.

THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC

LOUIS PRIMA, KEELY SMITH, AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF LAS VEGAS

Lazy, hackneyed biography of the lounge act to end them all.

Former New York Times contributing reporter Clavin (Sir Walter: Walter Hagen and the Invention of Professional Golf, 2005, etc.) provides a gee-whiz look at singer-trumpeter Louis Prima’s Las Vegas heyday with spouse and musical partner Keely Smith. Enthralled by fellow New Orleans native Louis Armstrong, Italian-American Prima began his musical career in the 1920s and became a popular fixture at New York’s during the ’30s. Forced to break up his big band by changing tastes, Prima was down on his heels in 1954 when, out of desperation, he took a gig at the Sahara Hotel’s Casbar Lounge, doing five sets a night from midnight to 6 a.m. Rambunctious Prima, deadpan Smith and their high-voltage band quickly became the toast of Vegas, and they were recording stars pulling down a million-dollar salary by the time divorce broke up their act in 1961. Clavin appears utterly unqualified to parse Prima’s musical style, which combined the sound of the small black R&B combos, who rose during the ’40s as the big-band era waned, with his own Italianate repertoire and extroverted showmanship. The author also provides very few primary sources and offers no explanation of why Smith failed to sit down for an interview. Most of the material is dredged up from past tomes about Vegas’ showbiz and mob history, yellowing press clippings and previous film biographies of Prima. Extreme padding is evident in passages that catalog contemporaneous movie-house attractions and TV broadcasts for no apparent reason. The main narrative is larded further with threadbare recaps of Vegas’ history as a playground for Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack and gangsters like Sam Giancana. Clavin’s fondness for cliché, idolatrous tone and unwillingness to supply even a glimmering of intelligent analysis make for torturous reading.

There’s no magic, black or otherwise, in this cut-and-paste bio.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55652-821-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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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