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THE GENIUS AND THE GODDESS

ARTHUR MILLER AND MARILYN MONROE

Not much new in this rehearsal of one of celebrity’s saddest stories.

A thoroughly researched but ill-balanced retelling of the brief love affair, marriage, creative collaboration, estrangement and divorce of Hollywood’s sexiest star and Broadway’s leading playwright.

Prolific biographer Meyers (Samuel Johnson: The Struggle, 2008, etc.) is particularly well equipped for the task of gleaning something new from this heavily harvested field. However, like many others who have drifted into the gravitational pull of planet Monroe, he can barely force his eyes away from her long enough to give Miller’s story more than a perfunctory summary and analysis. Describing her nude calendar from 1950, for example, he pants about Monroe’s “perfect body,” calling her “a modern Venus” in a torrid paragraph smoking with erotic detail (“Her alluring breasts promise pneumatic bliss, and her pink nipples merge with the red velvet”). Meyers begins his chronicle in 1951 with the initial meeting of his two principals, then retreats into alternating biographies, devoting nearly 80 pages to Monroe’s well-known depressing childhood and youth. Miller’s 36 pre-Monroe years merit only ten pages. The author revisits all of the central Marilyn moments: multiple foster homes, abuse, character flaws (habitual tardiness, deep insecurity), substance issues (alcohol, drugs), serial sexual escapades, notable marriages (to Joe DiMaggio and Miller) and most controversial affairs (JFK, RFK). Meyers dismisses as “wildly implausible” the conspiracy theories about her death and repeatedly assails both her acting coach Paula Strasberg and her final psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, who was “more disturbed and dangerous than the patient.” Meyers recognizes that Miller truly loved Monroe but finally ended the marriage when he realized she was destroying him. He’d spent three years working on a film for her (The Misfits), earning only her scorn, and her needs were too complex and her problems too intractable. In the final chapter, Meyers thoughtfully mines Miller’s last plays for nuggets about Monroe.

Not much new in this rehearsal of one of celebrity’s saddest stories.

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-252-03544-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Univ. of Illinois

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2009

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NIGHT

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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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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