THEY CAN KILL YOU BUT THEY CAN'T EAT YOU

...AND OTHER LESSONS FROM THE FRONT

Hypnotically frank, though not for the ages, the memoirs of movie producer Steel; or, Horatio Alger Walks through Lions in Darkest Hollywood—and gets killed but not eaten. Steel has major hair and was the first female head of production at Paramount and then, at Columbia, the first female president of a movie company. She tells her story straight out, with no urge to write finely, peppering it with just enough kiss- and-tell to keep faith with the Shelley Winters School of Confession while modestly not striving to outdo the founder. No one will read this for its hot sex among the famed; it's about power- -who gives it, who takes it away. As Steel says, ``...it's not a good idea to sleep with people you work with. Trust me on this...You can only sleep your way to the middle. It's not worth it.'' Whatever heights she reaches, Steel finds that power is illusionary—although for one brief shining moment she has it all- -and that power-without-creativity and its endless rounds of board meetings and executive decisions drains her soul, while working hands-on making one picture at a time (rather than 27) is sheer joy. Steel first hits big as a marketing innovator at Penthouse, goes on to market her own designer toilet paper and cute soaps, and finally is wooed into marketing in Hollywood and gets handed the first Star Trek movie to tie into promotions with Howard Johnson's, Coke, etc., a job at which she goes over the top. Affairs bloom with Richard Gere and Martin Scorsese, among others, but she always entwines with unmarriageable men because of bad memories of her depressed dad. When she finally lands at the top, she finds herself beheaded by Paramount during delivery of her first baby at 40. A winner for sure, but less blindly battered and pain-ridden than Art Linson's arias in A Pound of Flesh (reviewed above).

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-73832-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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