A quietly devastating indictment.



Film critic Weddle follows up his biography of Sam Peckinpah (“If They Move, Kill 'Em,” 1994) with an equally shrewd, tell-it-like-it-is profile of 90210.

You can't fault the author for operating on the representational level in his biography of Beverly Hills, for image is what the place is all about. And it doesn't take a mean spirit (Weddle isn't one) to see the awful in the awesome, the brutal in the breathtaking. So when he notes that “Beverly Hills is, quite simply, the most powerful bimbo vortex on the planet,” he doesn't intend to cut anything other than an additional facet of the picture. (Though readers may suspect some unfair slices here and there, as in a description of a real estate salesman's “gray hair neatly brushed back along the thick contours of his head.”) Weddle knows when to keep the discussion intelligent, explaining the profound effect of the influx of wealthy Iranians into the area after the Shah’s fall, the blatant humiliation and belittlement of African-Americans, or the latest manifestation of Fortress America (“the number, quality, and complexity of a person's security forces calibrates their social standing just as surely as the car they drive”). He knows when melancholy is in order, quoting a particularly Beverly Hills sort of alienated youth declaring, “Vandalism is lame. It's useless. Drugs, on the other hand, kick ass. Drugs give you power; they give you pussy; they give you money.” He knows how to thread into the story insightful comments about actors (the unsettling aspects of Buster Keaton's work, for example), and, having spent perhaps too many hours in the company of the self-important, he also knows all about smoke and mirrors: if you don’t believe, the whole edifice dissolves. Weddle’s Beverly Hills is a grim richness of embarrassments; as the alienated youth remarks, “I'll tell you one thing about growing up in Beverly Hills. Rich people are fucking weird. Money makes you weird.”

A quietly devastating indictment.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-019817-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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