Like Pakula’s films, Brown’s biography is specific, carefully assembled and straightforward, but also sometimes tepid and...

ALAN J. PAKULA

HIS FILMS AND HIS LIFE

A workmanlike study of a workmanlike filmmaker.

As producer, screenwriter and director, Alan J. Pakula created an inconsistent body of work. He helmed outright flops (Rollover), middling thrillers (The Devil’s Own) and some mostly successful hits (Sophie’s Choice, All the President’s Men). An admirer of Pakula’s work, Brown (Zero Mostel: A Biography, 1989) surveys Pakula’s career with a clear eye, acknowledging Pakula’s uneven record, while suggesting that as time passes, some of his films (Klute and The Parallax View) are gaining in stature. With a keen sense of detail that Pakula would have admired, Brown traces his subject’s journey from first efforts as a Broadway producer to major success in Hollywood as producer of To Kill a Mockingbird. Brown rather briskly passes over Pakula’s subsequent misfires, though not without pinpointing why they failed. Pakula’s successes as a director receive more expansive treatment as Brown details Pakula’s meticulous recreation of the Washington Post newsroom for All the President’s Men and his sensitive adaptation of William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice. But as Pakula felt a film should serve its story in a clear, direct way, and as he worked in severe genres, he never became a major auteur, leaving the author in sometimes shallow water. Pakula did encourage his actors to improvise, take risks, ask questions and try various approaches to their roles, a receptive attitude that won devotion from the likes of Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. Brown sketches out the details of Pakula’s personal life, which ended in 1998 when the filmmaker was killed in a car crash on Long Island. Pakula, friends and family repeat, was a mensch.

Like Pakula’s films, Brown’s biography is specific, carefully assembled and straightforward, but also sometimes tepid and flatly written.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8230-8799-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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