MERCHANT OF DREAMS

LOUIS B. MAYER, M.G.M., AND THE SECRET HOLLYWOOD

Big bio of Louis B. Mayer, the most thorough ever, from the tireless Higham (The Duchess of Windsor, 1988, and lives of Cary Grant, Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, and others). Higham researches Mayer (1885-1957) as richly as he did Wallis Simpson, but the mogul doesn't register here with the same hormonal impact as the duchess—although one reads a life of Mayer not only for gossip but also for Hollywood history. The book does outweigh Diana Altman's Hollywood East (p. 889), a business-oriented bio of Mayer, but it falls into the same need to detail the studio background, thereby draining momentum from Mayer's life. Few readers will find much that's new here, despite Higham's copious interviews, including many in which he disagrees with his interviewees about legendary incidents—for example, disputing MGM story chief Samuel Marx's suggestion that studio exec Paul Bern (Jean Harlow's husband) was murdered and that Mayer tampered with the evidence to make the death look like suicide: Higham contends that, on the fateful morning, only Irving Thalberg, not Mayer, arrived at the Harlow/Bern manse. Higham tells of Mayer's affair with Paramount chief B.P. Schulberg's wife and of his lust for Jeanette MacDonald; of Mayer having an underling take a year in jail for Clark Gable after the star killed a woman with his car; of the studio chief's spending perhaps $400,000 to cover up John Huston's similar trouble; of Mayer's fears that the bisexuality or homosexuality of many of his actors, including Garbo, would be exposed. But mainly Higham tells of the son of an immigrant junk dealer who built the greatest studio on earth and then was fired by top money-man Nicholas Schenck. The MGM story still again, though L.B. stands at center stage. (Photographs.)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 1993

ISBN: 1-55611-345-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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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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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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