Unauthorized life and career of Richard Pryor set against the careers of many African-American comedians and actors; by the father-son Williams team of novelist John A. (Jacob's Ladder, 1987, etc.) and son Dennis A., a former Newsweek journalist. The Williamses clearly did not have Pryor himself as a source and often fall back on ``seems to'' and ``must have'' when they lack hard facts. Their book, however, is chockablock with data about the history of black comedians and Pryor's rise and fall in the hierarchy. The title comes from Pryor's famous free-basing coke blast in which he set himself on fire and ran down the street, his cooked body smoking, until some alert cops stopped him: ``Stop, Richard. We gotta get you to a hospital.'' ``If I stop I'll die.'' Pryor was a knockout comedian as a Peoria, Ill., school kid, but when he broke into show business he tamed his humor and set about imitating soft-spoken Bill Cosby, whose only rival then was Dick Gregory. In a famous episode in Las Vegas, Pryor walked off the stage in midperformance and drove to Los Angeles: He'd realized to his chagrin that he was enjoying himself when playing to a sort of ``Mother's Day'' crowd. Over the next three years, the true Pryor emerged, with his wildly brash sexual humor and stories about his family and his own self-destructive behavior and drug-taking. Although he's made 40-some movies, often as writer/actor, Pryor is stifled by the screen but blooms on stage. In fact, he often plays characters on film that he once lampooned blisteringly on stage. The authors mean this to be a sympathetic critical biography, but Pryor does not come off all that well, despite a final paean by Dennis A. that directs us back to the comedian's great concert tapes. Still, in all, lively, serious scholarship. (Photographs— not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1991

ISBN: 1-56025-008-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1991

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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 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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