WHAT WOULD BARBRA DO?

HOW MUSICALS CHANGED MY LIFE

A memoir about musicals that doesn’t come up roses.

Recalling a spat with a friend over the musical Cats, Brockes admits, “I don’t know quite what point I’m trying to make here.” Agreed. The disagreement, however vital to the arguers, comes to only a vague, general point and verges on banality. A lack of focus dogs the rest of the book, a fuzzy commentary about musicals inspired by a mother who sped the author on her way by singing songs from The Sound of Music. Brockes works on an extremely shaky foundation. She places the golden age of musicals as occurring between 1950 and 1965, despite a critical consensus that places the heyday as taking place during the ’40s and ’50s. She zigzags, often unclearly, from stage to film musicals without considering the vastly different ways they work and affect audiences. Problems with fact and rhetoric further undermine her discussion. She cites “Everything’s Coming Up Roses!” as the “happy ending” number in Gypsy, when the number actually climaxes in the first act and the musical reaches an unhappy ending in the second act with “Rose’s Turn.” She argues that in Carousel, Billy Bigelow returns to earth only to slap his daughter’s face, ignoring the penultimate scene in which Billy imparts faith to his daughter and expresses love to his wife. Her commentary on Show Boat overlooks the 1936 James Whale version, which many critics cite as one of the greatest of film musicals. She deems Flower Drum Song a flop, though on stage it was a critical and commercial success. She reports that Jane Darwell won an Oscar for Gone with the Wind when the actress actually won for The Grapes of Wrath. And she bills Alice Faye as the star of King Kong, though it was actually Fay Wray.

Curtain down.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-125461-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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