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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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