FELLINI

THE BIOGRAPHY

An annoying, superficial, and spiteful reductionist biography of the late Italian filmmaker. Baxter (The Hollywood Exiles, 1976) is more intent on dashing the self-promulgated ``myth'' of Fellini (192093) than on the assemblage of a creditable life story. Presented a Lifetime Achievement Oscar shortly before he died, the Italian director was a consistent prize winner in Hollywood, at Cannes, and elsewhere with such landmark films as La Strada (1954), Nights of Cabiria (1957), La Dolce Vita (1960), 8´ (1963), and Amarcord (1973). Baxter provides detailed synopses of most of the films and delves into such background material as the development of the screenplays, casting, and selection of the crew. He discusses Fellini's childhood in Rimini and youth in Rome; his early exposure to cinema and some of his influences; his career as a cartoonist/journalist; his 50-year marriage to actress Giulietta Masina (``a relationship,'' Baxter claims, ``more like brother and sister''), and his supposed jealousy of and resistance to her emerging stardom following La Strada and Cabiria; his lordly treatment of those who worked for him; and his tumultuous association with producer Dino de Laurentiis. The author also catalogues, with little amplification and plenty of innuendo, ``a parade of sexually charged images'' from Fellini's childhood and dreams, which often became manifest in his films. Throughout, there is a persistent, pointless sniping. Baxter hints that Fellini bribed his high school teachers. We learn that he didn't really run away with the circus. He notes that as a 1930s schoolboy Fellini was photographed ``smartly turned out'' in his youth group uniform, implying that this somehow negated his adult anti-fascist beliefs. Baxter goes to great lengths to point out that Fellini's distant father, dominant mother, and ``a sensitive, creative disposition'' are ``often associated with homosexuality, but there's no evidence of physical affairs.'' Utterly lacking in artistry or insight—an unbearably long, trashy tabloid article. (24 pages of b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-11273-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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