A solid reference and affectionate remembrance, but a rather toothless biography.

HIGH SOCIETY

THE LIFE OF GRACE KELLY

Veteran celebrity biographer Spoto (Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, 2008, etc.) capitalizes on his personal friendship with actress and honest-to-goodness princess Grace Kelly (1929–1982) to create an affectionate, informative, though somewhat bland account of the screen icon’s life.

Kelly was born into a well-established, wealthy Philadelphia family and enjoyed the privileged upbringing typical for a girl of her class, though she suffered from a lifelong sense of alienation from her success-oriented father and her cold, disapproving mother. With her unforgettable patrician good looks, Kelly found instant success as a model and quickly made a name for herself on the Broadway stage, abetted by such influential family members such as her uncle, playwright George Kelly. Hollywood beckoned, and Kelly made a handful of classic films, including The Country Girl (1954), for which she won an Academy Award; the musical High Society (1956), co-starring Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby; and three pictures with the legendary Alfred Hitchcock: Dial M for Murder, Rear Window (both 1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Spoto is particularly interested in the relationship between Hitchcock and his muse, a fraught collaboration complicated by the director’s possessive, unrequited passion for the beautiful actress. Kelly famously left show business to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco, where she devoted the balance of her short life to raising her children and to matters of state. Spoto identifies Kelly’s fresh, affectless acting style as the key to her cinematic appeal, and goes on at length about her aptitude for “high comedy,” which evidently consists of polite farce free of vulgarity or unpleasantness. The author, a meticulous writer, is guilty of placing Kelly on a pedestal, much as her character is damagingly “worshipped” in High Society. Instead of digging for new or surprising insights into her work or persona, Spoto repeatedly praises Kelly’s fine spirit and refutes the claims of the actress’s rumored promiscuousness.

A solid reference and affectionate remembrance, but a rather toothless biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-39561-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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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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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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