KNOWING HEPBURN

AND OTHER CURIOUS EXPERIENCES

Mixing as it does the celebrated with the rank ordinary, this memoir is of the ``My meetings with famous people'' variety, a subset of biography rich with tiresome possibilities. And playwright and screenwriter Prideaux explores almost all of them in this year-by-year account of his friendship with Hepburn (and any other celebrities that cross his path, including Elizabeth Taylor, Ryan O'Neal, and Burt Reynolds). This odd couple was originally brought together for a project that, as so often happens in Hollywood, was never produced. But friendship of a kind grew, and over the next 24 years, Prideaux would author and produce several made-for-TV movies for Hepburn. Though he is a writer of some talent, Prideaux is a particularly irksome narrator, conventionally opinionated, campily theatrical, pinprick sensitive. All too often we find him sulking over some meager slight, exalting at the celebrity's passing pat-the-dog kindness, or moved to tears by his own scripts. But whenever Prideaux can forget about himself for a moment, an almost compelling portrait emerges—that of the artist as a monstre sacrÇ. Despite his worshipful attitude, Prideaux does little to glamorize his star buddies who, gilded by fame, massively indulged and cosseted, feel quite free to slip the bonds of human decency whenever it suits them. Hepburn is hardly the worst offender, but she is a far, far cry from her well-mannered, patrician screen image. Yet even at her most unpleasant and unkind (such as when she publicly humiliates Prideaux), those around her still crowd close, desperate for the scrofula-curing touch that we believe celebrity status bestows. Despite Prideaux's excesses and the suffocating celebrity banalities, there's enough unvarnished truth here to save this book from being just another celebrity puff piece. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1996

ISBN: 0-571-19892-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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