Did they or didn’t they? Lively (if largely warmed-over) scandal that should find an appreciative audience among fans of...

THE GIRLS

SAPPHO GOES TO HOLLYWOOD

A tell-all account of the glamorous stars of 1930s and ’40s Hollywood who practiced lesbian love.

McLellan (Ear on Washington, not reviewed) has honed her skill at political gossip to a fine art in Washington, writing a popular newspaper column called “The Ear.” Few of the names she outs will surprise even modest fans of film history: silent screen actress Alla Nazimova, Louise Brooks, Talullah Bankhead, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo—to say nothing of Natasha Rambova, the ubiquitous Mercedes de Acosta, and screenwriter Salka Viertel. The juice is in the details. For instance, we learn that for decades Dietrich and Garbo denied they had ever met, even though they were rising stars in Europe at about the same time, came to Hollywood within a few years of each other, and shared friends among Hollywood’s European community. The author thinks she knows why: she has discovered an early German film featuring Garbo in which Dietrich played a minor role. An affair was likely, McLellan speculates, but Garbo kept the lid on by threatening (through Viertel) to expose Dietrich’s connection to Communist spy Otto Katz (allegedly Dietrich’s first husband). The soup of personal and political intrigue thickens as the girls trade lovers and Bankhead and Dietrich keep the phones to FBI director “Jack” Hoover buzzing. There’s even a thin thread that connects Nancy Reagan’s mother to the network. But Dietrich is by far the most interesting character in the mélange, virtually flaunting her sexual escapades with both men and women. She nevertheless earned a medal from the US government for her work in WWII, while Garbo scurried for cover.

Did they or didn’t they? Lively (if largely warmed-over) scandal that should find an appreciative audience among fans of these early film stars and their coteries.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-24647-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he...

LIVES OTHER THAN MY OWN

The latest from French writer/filmmaker Carrère (My Life as a Russian Novel, 2010, etc.) is an awkward but intermittently touching hybrid of novel and autobiography.

The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he describes powerfully. Carrère and his partner, Hélène, then return to Paris—and do so with a mutual devotion that's been renewed and deepened by all they've witnessed. Back in France, Hélène's sister Juliette, a magistrate and mother of three small daughters, has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that crippled her in adolescence. After her death, Carrère decides to write an oblique tribute and an investigation into the ravages of grief. He focuses first on Juliette's colleague and intimate friend Étienne, himself an amputee and survivor of childhood cancer, and a man in whose talkativeness and strength Carrère sees parallels to himself ("He liked to talk about himself. It's my way, he said, of talking to and about others, and he remarked astutely that it was my way, too”). Étienne is a perceptive, dignified person and a loyal, loving friend, and Carrère's portrait of him—including an unexpectedly fascinating foray into Étienne and Juliette's chief professional accomplishment, which was to tap the new European courts for help in overturning longtime French precedents that advantaged credit-card companies over small borrowers—is impressive. Less successful is Carrère's account of Juliette's widower, Patrice, an unworldly cartoonist whom he admires for his fortitude but seems to consider something of a simpleton. Now and again, especially in the Étienne sections, Carrère's meditations pay off in fresh, pungent insights, and his account of Juliette's last days and of the aftermath (especially for her daughters) is quietly harrowing.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9261-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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