Engaging and well-documented recognition of four women’s significant impact on the emerging TV medium.

WHEN WOMEN INVENTED TELEVISION

THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FEMALE POWERHOUSES WHO PIONEERED THE WAY WE WATCH TODAY

The author of Seinfeldia and other books on pop culture explores the early days of TV through the efforts of four innovative women.

Entertainment writer and TV historian Armstrong looks back at the careers of four women whose contributions helped shape many of the formats popular today, including talk shows, sitcoms, and soap operas. Producer, writer, and actor Gertrude Berg tenaciously battled networks and sponsors to get The Goldbergs, her long-running radio series about a Jewish family living in the Bronx, to TV in 1949 and to keep the show running through the mid-1950s. Irna Phillips created several dramatic radio serials and “conceived the soap opera, including its defining tropes,” and her series, Guiding Light, became “the longest-running scripted program in broadcast history”—72 years on radio and TV. Betty White was among the first women to write, produce, and star on her own talk show and comedy series, yet her efforts to assert creative control over these early shows were increasingly curbed by NBC. Talented jazz musician and civil rights activist Hazel Scott faced perhaps the toughest roadblocks. In 1950, she was the first Black American to host a popular evening variety show, but her TV career was unfairly curtailed by false accusations from the House Un-American Activities Committee. Though their backgrounds, talents, and successes were distinct, each of these women faced similar pressures within the conservative, White male–dominated environment of the 1950s. “The white men of the Eisenhower era would take over and erase women’s legacies in television,” laments the author. “The women would have to fight for their basic career survival, and to defend any life choices that deviated from the nuclear family norm: remaining single and child-free, like Betty White…or raising children without a father, like Irna Phillips.” Though Armstrong repeats some pieces of information over the course of the narrative, her history is fresh and welcome.

Engaging and well-documented recognition of four women’s significant impact on the emerging TV medium.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297330-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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