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The author is perhaps a bit overly enamored with his magnificent monster of a subject (and indulges a weakness for strained...

A richly flavorful biography of John Huston, great director and bona fide man’s man.

Highly prolific biography Meyers (Orwell: Life and Art, 2010, etc.) presents a comprehensive life of Huston, a filmmaker of unusual range and power and a protean figure in real life, a renaissance man whose passions ran toward beautiful women, hunting, art and literature, gambling and general derring-do. The son of celebrated actor Walter Huston, John pursued painting and writing in his youth, accumulating a Hemingway-esque aura living rough in Mexico and London before embarking on his wildly successful Hollywood career. Huston was in fact a close friend of Hemingway’s, and Meyers goes to some length explicating the similarities of the men; both were passionate individualists, obsessed with macho notions of masculinity. The author is at least as interested in Huston’s persona—grandiloquent, casually cruel or generous, prone to boredom and constitutionally unable to practice monogamy—as he is in the man’s work. This pays dividends in descriptions of his friendly, competitive relationships with tough guys like Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum, and in Meyer’s accounts of the appalling bullying suffered by meeker collaborators such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Ray Bradbury. However, the copious cataloging of his many complicated love affairs and marriages becomes tediously repetitive and ultimately depressing. Meyers is informative and insightful about Huston’s film triumphs (including The Maltese Falcon and The African Queen) and flops (Annie), providing fresh anecdotes about their production and astute analysis of Huston’s laissez-faire directorial style (he believed in honoring the text and leaving the actors alone), making a strong case for Huston as one of cinema’s most accomplished and significant creators.

The author is perhaps a bit overly enamored with his magnificent monster of a subject (and indulges a weakness for strained puns and clumsy humor), but this biography is a serious, intelligent, highly readable reckoning with Huston’s outsize legacy.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-59067-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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