Juicy tidbits for the armchair casting agent. Readers will devour this tome for its behind-the-scenes dramas, if not...



Casting couch? What casting couch?

Hollywood star-makers Hirshenson and Jenkins debunk that myth and many others in their from-the-trenches memoir. Times have changed since the studios made casting decisions in-house and moguls bedded their wannabe starlets in exchange for plum roles. Today, according to these longtime professional partners, it’s all business in the female-dominated, mostly freelance casting profession. In fact, filling the roles of a major film takes many arduous months and poses more maddening possibilities than a Sudoku puzzle. “Casting is a complicated, delicate, and almost alchemical business,” they write. “To be a good casting director, you need instinct, patience, and the ability to remember hundreds of diverse faces, voices, and performances.” Hirshenson and Jenkins are tops among the approximately 700 casting directors and associates working in the U.S. Their filmography, which includes everything from The Outsiders to The Da Vinci Code, indicates why they are among the most sought-after in the business; they have given first star turns to unknowns like Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and the Harry Potter kids. But even the most astute talent scouts can make missteps: The pair admits to passing on future Oscar-winners George Clooney and Kevin Spacey. Among the most riveting vignettes are those from the strange and rather perverse field of children’s casting, where Hirshenson and Jenkins first encountered such eventual above-the-marquee names as Leonardo DiCaprio, Winona Ryder and Scarlett Johansson. Though the authors’ tales are often engaging and illuminating, their prose is pedestrian, and they can be sloppy, referring to Oscar nominee Laura Dern as an Oscar-winner and misspelling Steven Spielberg’s name multiple times.

Juicy tidbits for the armchair casting agent. Readers will devour this tome for its behind-the-scenes dramas, if not literary merit.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-101234-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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