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WONDER OF WONDERS

A CULTURAL HISTORY OF FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

Everything a Fiddler fan could hope to learn but with little to entice general readers.

Raising the roof on one of the most successful and resonant works in the history of Broadway.

Solomon (Arts and Culture/Columbia Univ. Graduate School of Journalism; Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theatre and Gender, 1997, etc.) presents a comprehensive history of the long-running and much-revived Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, the iconic production that broke box-office records, swept the Tony Awards, inspired a hit Hollywood movie, and, for many, defined and fixed the details of traditional Jewish life in the popular imagination. The author marshals impressive quantities of research to trace Fiddler’s history, beginning with its origins in the writings of Sholem Aleichem, a prominent Yiddish writer whose late-19th-century stories about Tevye the dairyman, which portrayed shtetl life in a warmly realistic style, served as the source material for what would become the musical institution. The Tevye material was adapted over the ensuing decades with varying levels of success—Solomon scrupulously documents every permutation, which becomes a bit tiresome—eventually finding its way to Broadway in 1964 in the form of Fiddler on the Roof, shepherded by director and choreographer Jerome Robbins and starring comic force of nature Zero Mostel. The creation of the Broadway show provides the book’s richest passages, as the anxious, insecure Robbins clashes with the obstreperous Mostel and a miraculous confluence of talents and personalities achieve the elusive alchemy of great theatrical art. The remainder of the narrative, which covers the show’s adaptation into the successful film version and subsequent reimaginings—including a controversial staging at a black junior high in racially fraught late-1960s Brooklyn and an embattled Polish production in the early 2000s—serves as an illuminating but comparatively lackluster footnote. Solomon has done her homework; unfortunately, homework is what this worthy but dryly academic chronicle too often feels like.

Everything a Fiddler fan could hope to learn but with little to entice general readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9260-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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