This incisive, illuminating book shows the personal toll that success took on all responsible, the price paid for laughs.

LETTERMAN

THE LAST GIANT OF LATE NIGHT

The tale of a tormented TV star and his legacy.

This is a critical biography, not in the sense of being negative (although there are parts that Letterman won’t like, since he doesn’t seem to like much), but as a work of criticism that focuses on the inner workings of a TV career rather than any life away from show business. “Years before the term ‘Generation X’ moved into circulation, David Letterman made ironic detachment seem like the most sensible way to approach the world,” writes New York Times comedy critic Zinoman (Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror, 2011) in this sharp, revealing biography. Such an attitude would establish him as a generational spokesman during an era of political apathy. Yet Letterman was more obsessed than detached, a “spectacularly committed hypochondriac,” a self-lacerating critic of his own show, and a performer who had to be pushed out of his comfort zone for his paradigm-shifting innovations. Though he played his eccentricities and insecurities for laughs, they were no laughing matter for the staff that was crucial in the development of his comedic dynamic, the writers who so often found themselves isolated (or occasionally berated) by the boss they were trying so desperately to please. The most significant of these collaborators was Merrill Markoe, his partner and foil from his early stint on daytime TV, who, “as much as anyone…helped invent the aesthetic of David Letterman.” Most of the rest were men, frequently from Harvard, and the boys’ club atmosphere became more of a problem as Letterman’s sexual relations with female interns became public. Zinoman’s analysis is often refreshingly counterintuitive: Letterman was a good interviewer. He recast and renewed himself during the writers’ strike. He didn’t fail as Oscar host. He was even more miserable as the winner of the late-night ratings war than he had been as the underdog.

This incisive, illuminating book shows the personal toll that success took on all responsible, the price paid for laughs.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-237721-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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