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THE MEMORY OF ALL THAT

THE LIFE OF GEORGE GERSHWIN

A Gershwin run-through, by the biographer of Bernstein (1987) and Boulez (1976): a disjointed mix of familiar anecdotes, so-so musicology, rancid gossip, and psychobabble. The supposed Big Story here is Gershwin's illegitimate son- -born in 1926, Peyser claims, to actress Mollie Charleston, but raised as ``Alan Schneider'' by Mollie's sister and brother-in-law. The primary sources are iffy: a former Gershwin valet and Alan himself, who has admittedly suffered from amnesia. Moreover, Peyser's own credibility is severely compromised by her inclusion, throughout the book, of thirdhand rumors about other illegitimate children and Gershwin's sexual habits. (At one point, we're told what someone said his psychiatrist said another patient said about Gershwin.) Nor are the Gershwin family portraits entirely convincing. According to Peyser, George himself, raised by rejecting parents, was a narcissist with low self-esteem, incapable of real feeling; wounded by bad reviews in the 1930's, he internalized his anger and wound up with a brain tumor. (According to Peyser's medical consultants, it started growing years before he died.) Brother Ira, a blur here, was ``virtually pathological when it came to money,'' under the thumb of ``cruel,'' ``rapacious'' wife Leonore. And there are unsatisfying glimpses of George's many girlfriends, with only Kay Swift emerging as more than a clutch of innuendos. As for the music, Peyser offers the standard ``torn between two worlds'' story: the facile songwriter straining for concert-hall greatness. Her analysis of the symphonic work is serviceable, but her treatment of the songs is unacceptably sketchy, with a thesis—Ira's lyrics tell George's life-story—that doesn't work. Gershwin's dark side may merit more attention than it's gotten in the past, but Peyser's version is too shrill and unscholarly to be taken seriously. Stick with Edward Jablonski (Gershwin, 1987), Deena Rosenberg (Fascinating Rhythm, 1991), and the other more balanced Gershwin commentators. (Thirty-two pages of b&w photographs)

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-70948-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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