The book is not without flaws, but Gray effectively shows how The Graduate, despite ignoring the flashpoint issues of the...



A Hollywood industry insider unspools an absorbing, sometimes-uneven analysis of a film classic on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

At its best, Gray's (Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Biography of the Godfather of Indie Filmmaking, 2000) book is a well-researched and skillfully composed echo of such Hollywood tomes as Aljean Harmetz's Round Up the Usual Suspects. Only now does The Graduate (1967) reveal itself, in one sense, as a film that was out of place and time in its own era. As Gray points out, it is a movie that has always meant different things to different people, “a cinematic Rorschach test.” Though it has its detractors, not least for a somewhat abrupt segue from social satire to romantic comedy, this seminal, deceptively sophisticated film has shown great staying power, and its innovative approach to collaboration, casting, and cinematic invention was, and remains, influential—as was its ambiguous climax, the significance of which Gray captures exceptionally well. She reveals a film viewed as an outsider's effort in more ways than one: outside a studio system whose demise it helped accelerate and outside the dominant American cultural milieu. The author, who leads screenwriting workshops at UCLA, has a practiced interpretive mind. She demonstrates how, for all its popularity and game-changing success, the toughest critics were split on the film's value and how many in the youth movement rebutted rather than embraced the movie's relevance. It is in these passages, and in offering an alternative, not-so-sympathetic take on the movie's protagonist, that Gray is most penetrating. But one wonders if a scene-by-scene synopsis and scrutiny is really necessary. Interesting in the main, it can get tedious. The author also engages in some questionable, rather high-blown assaying of the filmmakers' intents and weakens her remembrance of the ’60s with a glib introduction.

The book is not without flaws, but Gray effectively shows how The Graduate, despite ignoring the flashpoint issues of the day, worked as a subversive force in a period about to reassess its cinematic and cultural conventions.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61620-616-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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