Strong, tender, and revealing.



An actor’s life, as told in flashback.

Gene Wilder is familiar to the American public as the mad scientist in Young Frankenstein and the kooky Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Not so familiar is Jerry Silberman: that is, Gene Wilder himself in his pre-acting days. This “autobiography” is really more about Silberman than Wilder, who uses a rather unusual device to tell Jerry’s story: his visits to psychiatrist Margie Waller become a filter for his memories of life as Jerry Silberman. The young Jerry is an introspective boy with a gift for comedy who can make his mother laugh—she has a heart condition, and Jerry tries to relieve any stress that might aggravate it. His early reminiscences seem focused equally on acting and on encounters with the opposite sex, although there’s a bizarre little ramble about his compulsion to pray, which is humorous in a pathos-filled way. The acting memories make sense—Wilder entertainingly relates how his earl acting experiences formed a foundation for his successful acting career. Surprisingly enough, his tales of sexual liaisons with young women are not played for broad humor but are told in a rather matter-of-fact, straightforward style, with tiny nuggets of humor buried deep. These opening pages set the tone for the rest, where the focus remains on acting and relationships, all told in the same matter-of-fact style, with subtle snippets of humor sprinkled throughout. It’s not an autobiography in the usual sense of the word, but it does give the reader an understanding of Jerry Silberman’s deliberate transformation into Gene Wilder. Wilder is quite candid about his life, not flinching at all when it comes to sharing intimate details. Especially poignant is the section on his romance with Gilda Radner, the comic actress who became his wife and was to die of cancer (It’s Always Something, 1989). Wilder evidently wrote the book himself, and did well; it’s an honest, affecting look at his life.

Strong, tender, and revealing.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33706-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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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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