An improbably resonant tale of warped creativity and friendship.



Funny, engaging first-person account of the making of The Room (2003), “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”

French-American actor Sestero collaborates with acclaimed author Bissell (Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, 2012, etc.), producing a deft, energetic narrative as concerned with the romantic American obsession with celebrity as with his trying involvement with The Room and its notorious producer/director/writer/star, Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau dominates his bewildering, unintentionally hilarious film, so Sestero’s focus on trying to understand his friend’s baffling background and motivations gives the story of their relationship surprising depth, even though Wiseau comes off as creepy, self-centered and socially inept (though often bighearted and generous toward the youthful Sestero, possibly his only friend). The narrative follows two strands, one beginning with their 1998 meeting in an acting class where Wiseau presented “beautifully, chaotically wrong performances,” and the other covering The Room’s production, for which Sestero served as both line producer and (at the last minute) as a replacement actor in a key role. Fans of the film will be pleased to learn that making it was an equally punishing and surreal experience, as the manipulative, confusing Wiseau’s relations with the cast were “disastrously intemperate.” Yet, Wiseau spent so much of his own money that a major Hollywood equipment supplier felt compelled to aid him through the production, even as crew members routinely quit in dismay. Sestero now seems mystified by his willingness to spend time on “Tommy’s Planet,” having wrongly assumed that Wiseau’s vanity project would never reach completion. However, he argues that for all Wiseau’s flaws, their friendship provided his abashed younger self with needed inspiration: “He was simply magically uninhibited.” Sestero critiques the movie as Tommy’s “dream life in line with what he thought an American would want.” This may explain why his objectively terrible film nonetheless struck a chord, although the narrative does not explore its cult afterlife, ending abruptly at the film’s premiere.

An improbably resonant tale of warped creativity and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6119-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?