LAURENCE OLIVIER

A BIOGRAPHY

Despite having conducted dozens of interviews with those who knew Olivier, Spoto (author of biographies of Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams, and others) offers little important new material—and few fresh insights—in this long, uninspired biography. Aside from lots of sexual tattle, much of it unsupported by sources, and an unconvincing minority opinion on Vivien Leigh's mental troubles, most everything here has been covered before (and, often, better) elsewhere. Like Anthony Holden (Laurence Olivier, 1988), Spoto takes a largely unfriendly view of Sir Larry—seen throughout as primarily ambitious, envious, ungrateful (to Gielgud especially), and ``emotionally inaccessible.'' Also like Holden, Spoto emphasizes Olivier's guilt-ridden nature; unlike Holden, though, Spoto links it to a struggle with bisexuality, supposedly evidenced by a ten- year affair with Danny Kaye (cf. Michael Korda's recent roman Ö clef) and quasi-sexual attachments to Noel Coward, Kenneth Tynan, and others. As for women, there were brief encounters (Greer Garson, Sarah Miles, Claire Bloom, etc.) and three unhappy marriages; in Spoto's iffy version, Joan Plowright is an uncaring opportunist, Vivien Leigh a self-indulgent sensualist (rather than a manic-depressive). And his interpretation of Olivier's amazing career and art is only slightly more persuasive: the stage and film work, the rise and fall at the National Theatre, all receive conscientious attention—but Spoto's attempts at analyzing the Olivier genius largely slide into psychobabble and platitude: ``This awareness of inadequacy was suffused by a mysterious gift, enabling him to pass the single beam of his own humanity through the prism of a role—and the emerging, manifold ray reached the countless different lives of his spectators.'' Sure to be read for the gossip, and worth skimming for curious bits of interview material, but—with its flat delivery and spotty documentation—an only so-so addition to the crowded Olivier reference room. (More than 75 halftones—not seen.)

Pub Date: March 11, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-018315-2

Page Count: 600

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1992

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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