McCabe is uniquely well qualified to write a Cagney biography: Not only was he the ghost on Cagney's autobiography, but he also was the authorized biographer of George M. Cohan (1973), whom Cagney famously portrayed in Yankee Doodle Dandy. McCabe draws heavily on his lengthy taped interviews with Cagney, with the result that this volume feels a bit like an extension of the actor's autobiography. Indeed, there are no major revelations here. Rather, this is a briskly written retelling of a somewhat familiar story—albeit a richer retelling than previous ones, thanks to the added texture that comes from Cagney's voice. Cagney grew up in relative poverty in New York City, the son of an alcoholic barman and a tough, no-nonsense mother (who taught her sons how to box). Some of the best moments in the book come in recounting Cagney's happy, hardscrabble youth. A compulsively modest and private man, he seems to have been ill-suited for the public life of a movie star; he took up acting because it paid well. He seldom attends Hollywood parties, spending most of his spare time reading and, later, painting and farming (his true ambition had always been to be a farmer). He brought a fiery intelligence to his acting, and McCabe, an ex-actor himself, has some nicely judged analyses of his subject's earlier work, concentrating on technique with an acuity that one seldom finds in star biographies. Regrettably, as the book goes on, McCabe offers fewer of these insights. One also wishes for more in-depth research on a wide range of matters, from the daily routine of the Warner Bros. film factory to the background of Cagney's family, from his legal wrangles with the studio to his political evolution from quasi-socialist to conservative Republican. The definitive Cagney biography has yet to be written, but this is a workmanlike and eminently readable effort. (100 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-44607-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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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 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...


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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