Slips occasionally into hearsay and grievance but rivets readers with “a kind of fascinated horror.”

WEST OF EDEN

AN AMERICAN PLACE

Through interviews with remnants of a long-gone Hollywood, a vivid sense of some of the great formative families emerges.

Readers of George Plimpton's Paris Review will be familiar with the interview structure of this compelling, occasionally gossipy, informative chronicle of the flamboyant personalities from a storybook Hollywood era and the great houses they inhabited in Beverly Hills and Malibu. Stein (Edie: An American Biography, 1982, etc.), formerly an editor at Paris Review and Grand Street, delves into the strange, incredible sagas of early Los Angeles oil baron Edward L. Doheny; Warner Bros. founder Jack Warner; schizophrenic teenager Jane Garland (and her coterie of male handlers); actress and wife of David Selznick, Jennifer Jones; and the author's father, Jules Stein, founder of Music Corporation of America—all of whom were more or less neighbors and party acquaintances in the area. The speakers, aside from their names, are not otherwise identified; readers have to scan the "biographical notes" in the back, a structure aiming no doubt to maintain a fluidity to the narrative. Indeed readable, this work, through its gradual fleshing-out of the biographical portraits, depicts these larger-than-life legends who were vulnerable to scandal and heartbreak. Doheny, one of the richest men in the country in the 1910s, endured the suicide of his first wife and the death of his son following the Teapot Dome trial of 1929. Warner, remembered by his son Jack Jr. early on as a lovable man before success corrupted him, did not live to see his grand house on Angelo Drive bought by David Geffen in 1990. Actress Jones became the ultimate Hollywood hostess while weathering tremendous emotional instability. Jules Stein, the son of Lithuanian immigrants in South Bend, Indiana, left his career as an ophthalmologist to start a band-booking business and created an entire empire.

Slips occasionally into hearsay and grievance but rivets readers with “a kind of fascinated horror.”

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9840-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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