The author is very much in the picture in this ambitious, self- and style-conscious portrait of 20th-century celebrities.


Part romance, part literary biography, part soapbox, this self-described “faction” depicts the “son of a Jewish cheese importer, besotted with the daughter of one of his country’s most famous writers”—in other words the youthful love affair between J.D. Salinger and Oona O’Neill.

“Maybe one day, someone will write a sentimental book about us!” writes Oona to Jerry in this metafiction from French writer Beigbeder (Windows on the World, 2005, etc.). And here it is, presented in modernist form complete with watercolor illustrations, appearances by the author, and claims to have invented the first YouTube novel (readers are urged to check out 17-year-old O’Neill’s 1942 screen test on that site). Opening with the assertion that the characters, places, events, and dates are all real, the book proceeds to embroider them with invented dialogue and correspondence, psychological, social, and literary speculation, and much more concerning the couple and their milieu. Their involvement begins in 1940 at the Stork Club, where shy embryonic writer Salinger sees Oona, a 15-year-old it girl hanging out with Gloria Vanderbilt. The sentimental centerpiece of their relationship is a rhapsodic summer night spent together on the Jersey shore: “They kissed, she floated, and he carried her.” But the mutuality fades. He loves her more; she is burdened by family issues and is also too young to have sex or marry. After Pearl Harbor, Salinger joins up, and O’Neill moves to California, where she will meet and marry Charlie Chaplin, age 54. Beigbeder’s romantic, analytical, sometimes excessively cute narration of events is mixed with walk-on roles for other famous figures—Capote, Hemingway, Orson Welles. The writing is cinematic and consumable but achieves power during descriptions of Salinger’s harrowing, life-changing World War II experiences.

The author is very much in the picture in this ambitious, self- and style-conscious portrait of 20th-century celebrities.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61428-554-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Assouline

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2017

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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

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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