Curtain down.

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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