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

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JOHN HUSTON

COURAGE AND ART

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 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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