An incisive literary autopsy of the Master of Suspense.



A fresh assessment of the legendary director.

Following The Tastemaker, his outstanding biography of Carl Van Vechten, White takes on another titanic figure in the arts. The author plumbs Hitchcock’s films and TV shows to reinforce his view that he was a man of many contradictions, “usually complex, often troubling, but always vital.” White breaks down his subject’s psyche into 12 “lives,” beginning with “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up,” which delves into his childhood trauma, “dread of authority,” and the “lifelong fascination with cruelty and violence that fueled his creativity.” In “The Murderer,” White posits that to “crack the Hitchcock code there’s no better place to start than at the grisly end,” as he leads us down a bloody path that runs from The Lodger to Psycho. The author reveals Hitchcock’s ability to promote his brand and create a “personal mythology.” In “The Womanizer,” White explores Hitchcock’s complex, contradictory relationships with women as a “creator and controller,” best seen in Vertigo, and his dependence on his wife, Alma. Discussing Shadow of a Doubt, “a point of continuity between the two halves of his career” gives White the opportunity to point out that the “most insistent theme of his work is a seemingly happy home cruelly torn asunder.” Examining Rear Window, which the director considered his “most cinematic” film, the author notes now “Hitchcock knew the power one could command by looking—and by denying others the opportunity to look.” It was the success of his two TV shows that helped create the “Entertainer,” and “The Pioneer” neatly shows how “each of his works is in deep conversation with the rest.” Hitchcock “The Londoner”—White is especially good on the director’s early English films—and the Catholic “Man of God” complete the 12 lives. Although the author doesn’t uncover much groundbreaking information, he presents the man and his films in a readable, entertaining package.

An incisive literary autopsy of the Master of Suspense.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00239-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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 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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A self-aware confessional from a successful and controversial musician.


The Grammy-winning Irish singer/songwriter looks back on her eventful life.

Promising candor and clarity, O’Connor (b. 1966) opens with a caveat that her story only details lucid periods of her life when she was psychologically “present.” Omitting hazy years in which she drifted off “somewhere else inside myself”—material some readers may wish she included—the author shares pivotal milestones (raising four children) and entertaining anecdotes. O’Connor vividly recalls an abusive Catholic childhood in Dublin with a cruel, unstable mother. As a rebellious teenager, she was sent to a reform asylum, where her love for music became the ultimate refuge, leading to band gigs and eventually a record deal in London in 1985. The Lion and the Cobra achieved gold status, and O’Connor describes the development of her persona: shaved head, baggy clothing, and stormy, antagonistic, always forthright demeanor. The author addresses her mental health challenges and experimentation with sex and drugs (“In the locked ward where they put you if you’re suicidal, there’s more class A drugs than in Shane MacGowan’s dressing room”) as well as two iconic moments in her career: her smash-hit cover of the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U” and her notorious performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, when she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II. “A lot of people say or think that tearing up the pope’s photo derailed my career. That’s not how I feel about it,” she writes. Rather, it allowed her to return to her roots as a live performer instead of remaining on the pop-star trajectory (“you have to be a good girl for that”). In cathartic sections, O’Connor considers the era leading up to that appearance as a personal death, with the years following a kind of “rebirth.” Though she touches on her agoraphobia and later psychological issues, with which many of her fans will be familiar, the final third of the memoir sputters somewhat, growing less revelatory than earlier passages.

A self-aware confessional from a successful and controversial musician.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-42388-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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