Thoughtful and entertaining, an engaging example of determination both on screen and in real life.

A Life of Make Believe

FROM PARALYSIS TO HOLLYWOOD

A memoir from a physically disabled actor who navigated the rough-and-tumble world of showbiz.

You may not recognize his name, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen Mahon in a TV show or movie. Since the 1970s, this veteran character actor has appeared in numerous works—usually portraying a police officer or military man—such as The Exorcist, The Rockford Files, The X-Files, L.A. Confidential and Armageddon. But for Mahon, the path to Hollywood wasn’t easy; as detailed in his memoir, he spent most of his life facing personal and professional obstacles. In 1950, at the age of 12, Mahon contracted polio, which caused him to lose the use of his left arm; his descriptions of the illness put into perspective just how devastating the disease was at the time. While polio may have dashed his athletic ambitions—he refers to himself as a “gimp,” a rather sardonic term for a physically disabled person—Mahon found his calling in acting: “The fact was acting, although scary sometimes, made me feel a great deal more alive.” Yet he also admits that the decision to become an actor with a physical disability was “harebrained,” and while in search of his big break, he took on various jobs such as being a caseworker for the New York City Welfare Department, taxi driver and busboy. In auditions, sometimes his bum arm would cost him a part, though other times it didn’t matter. “I remember at one audition a tactless female producer in a loud voice announced: ‘He can’t even use his arm!’ ” The ongoing thread through this book is that, despite his physical disability and some professional setbacks, Mahon never gave up: “I didn’t want to be an actor. I had to be one.” Along the way, Mahon offers anecdotes about some of his acting roles; his friendship with Jason Miller, best known as Father Karras in The Exorcist and the playwright of the Pulitzer Prize–winning work That Championship Season; and his encounters with fellow actors such as Al Pacino, Warren Beatty, James Garner and James Coburn. Perhaps because Mahon isn’t a recognizable famous star and he didn’t live a tremendously glamorous lifestyle, the book’s tone is quite unassuming and modest compared with other gossip-laden celebrity tell-alls. Managing a dash of humor, he’s frank about some of the not-so-pleasant aspects of the profession—whether it’s dealing with a particular actor or director or working on projects that never got off the ground. Mahon’s straightforward, honest perspective about his craft could benefit aspiring actors who take heed of his wisdom and experience.

Thoughtful and entertaining, an engaging example of determination both on screen and in real life.

Pub Date: May 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495942495

Page Count: 346

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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