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JANE FONDA

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A PUBLIC FIGURE

Reading to savor.

Distinguished celebrity biographer and Vanity Fair contributing editor Bosworth (Marlon Brando, 2001, etc.) recounts the life story of an American icon in all its heady—and at times, unabashedly scandalous—glory.

Ten years in the making, the book is based in exhaustive and meticulous research as well as a friendship the author began with Fonda in the late 1960s when they were both students studying at the Actors Studio in New York. Bosworth divides Fonda’s life into five distinctive stages, naming each after the “archetype” Fonda embodied during those phases: daughter, actress, movie star/sex symbol, political activist and workout guru/tycoon wife. With consummate skill and insight, the author follows Fonda through a childhood that included tortured relationships with an emotionally unavailable father, Henry Fonda, and a troubled mother who committed suicide at age 42. As young adult, Fonda’s dynamism drove her toward defining herself as an actress-artist (rather than her father’s actress daughter). At the same time, a need for quasi-paternal control caused her to fall into Svengali-like relationships with men—most notably, director Roger Vadim and activist Tom Hayden. In the early ’70s, Fonda’s rebelliousness caused her to move toward the political left and speak out against the Vietnam War. As a way to help fund Hayden’s political ambitions, Fonda began a workout studio in the ’80s that evolved into a multimillion-dollar industry. No longer the sexpot, she was now an Academy Award–winning feminist-actress who took pride in “empowering women to be in charge of their bodies.” Bosworth’s coverage of Fonda’s apparent backslide into the Stepford-esque wife of media tycoon Ted Turner is not nearly as in-depth as that she gives to the other phases of her colorfully tumultuous history. But this does not take away from her total effort, which is as epic as the life she chronicles.

Reading to savor.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-15257-8

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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