DAVID MERRICK

THE ABOMINABLE SHOWMAN

A dishy but disappointing first biography of the legendary producer/ogre (who will be 82 in November)—as told by the chief theater critic for the New York Daily News. Kissel tells the story of the guy in the pinstripe suit (a vestment Merrick chose early in his flight from the hollowing meanness of his childhood) who dominated the Broadway theater from the 1950's until he began failing in the 1970's—first out of step, then out of steam, and finally felled by a stroke. Along the way, Merrick specialized in the tony American musical and the classy British import. His shows included Gypsy; Hello, Dolly!; Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead; and Look Back In Anger. Merrick, Kissel explains, had a genius for generating publicity: When Subways Are for Sleeping appeared weak in the knees out of town, he ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Herald- Tribune that featured little raves written by namesakes of prestigious critics. When director Gower Champion died just before the opening of 42nd Street, Merrick squelched all news of his death so he could announce it himself at the final opening-night curtain. No matter that Champion was a friend of old: Merrick was, by Kissel's account, a veritable monster who ruled by tantrum and menace—weapons allegedly honed by old anger and new cocaine. Was Merrick crazy as a fox or just plain crazy? Did his meshugaas help or hinder his fabulous productions? The questions are asked throughout, but the answers are impeded by turgid writing and an erratic overview that shrugs off much of consequence. Kissel's at his best when dealing with the post-stroke Merrick, where the focus is insistently sharp and the pathos keen. (Photographs)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1993

ISBN: 1-55783-172-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Applause

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1993

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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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