Engaging, in-depth study of how Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities was transferred from megahit book to megaflop movie; by the film critic of The Wall Street Journal, novelist of White Lies (1987). With an okay from Brian de Palma, Bonfire's director, Salamon jumped on board early, when only Tom Hanks had been hired to play Sherman McCoy. She charts the movie's birth pains, financing, script revisions, casting, location-scouting in the Bronx and Manhattan, the New York shoot and the Los Angeles shoot, second unit work for backgrounds not directed by de Palma, editing, sound mixing, scoring, previews around L.A. and in Boston, reediting, advertising, premiere, and reviews. Salamon keeps a steady interest both in the artisans and the mechanics of their art without ever quite finding a voice of her own (say, like Pauline Kael's) or revealing how her presence on the scene may have affected anything. ``The devil's candy'' is a phrase from Peter Guber, the movie's original producer, which means both the actress to be cast as Sherman's mistress and the orgasm of instant success, as in E.T. or Batman. The book's embattled center is de Palma, who is rescued from his ghoulish image in suspense films, and would be the book's tragic hero were the abortive film a tragedy instead of a creative misfire from the first script and first compromise onward. Even so, this movie struck its makers as ``the definitive vehicle of dreams...the stretch limo of hopes and ambition.'' Stephen Spielberg's take on what happened is right on target: ``Brian is stepping into shoes that can be worn by other film makers. When he does that he's caught up in the machinery of the studio system.'' Like watching a World Trade Center tower topple onto Wall Street. (Eight-page b&w photo insert—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 1991

ISBN: 0-395-56996-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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Startling, at times pretentious in its self-regard, but ultimately breathtaking: The Lost Weekend for the under-25 set.


Frey’s lacerating, intimate debut chronicles his recovery from multiple addictions with adrenal rage and sprawling prose.

After ten years of alcoholism and three years of crack addiction, the 23-year-old author awakens from a blackout aboard a Chicago-bound airplane, “covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood.” While intoxicated, he learns, he had fallen from a fire escape and damaged his teeth and face. His family persuades him to enter a Minnesota clinic, described as “the oldest Residential Drug and Alcohol Facility in the World.” Frey’s enormous alcohol habit, combined with his use of “Cocaine . . . Pills, acid, mushrooms, meth, PCP and glue,” make this a very rough ride, with the DTs quickly setting in: “The bugs crawl onto my skin and they start biting me and I try to kill them.” Frey captures with often discomforting acuity the daily grind and painful reacquaintance with human sensation that occur in long-term detox; for example, he must undergo reconstructive dental surgery without anesthetic, an ordeal rendered in excruciating detail. Very gradually, he confronts the “demons” that compelled him towards epic chemical abuse, although it takes him longer to recognize his own culpability in self-destructive acts. He effectively portrays the volatile yet loyal relationships of people in recovery as he forms bonds with a damaged young woman, an addicted mobster, and an alcoholic judge. Although he rejects the familiar 12-step program of AA, he finds strength in the principles of Taoism and (somewhat to his surprise) in the unflinching support of family, friends, and therapists, who help him avoid a relapse. Our acerbic narrator conveys urgency and youthful spirit with an angry, clinical tone and some initially off-putting prose tics—irregular paragraph breaks, unpunctuated dialogue, scattered capitalization, few commas—that ultimately create striking accruals of verisimilitude and plausible human portraits.

Startling, at times pretentious in its self-regard, but ultimately breathtaking: The Lost Weekend for the under-25 set.

Pub Date: April 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50775-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Essential for fans and the definitive celebration of a show that made history by knowing the rules and breaking every one of...


Everything you ever wanted to know about America’s favorite Mafia serial—and then some.

New York magazine TV critic Seitz (Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion, 2015, etc.) and Rolling Stone TV critic Sepinwall (Breaking Bad 101: The Complete Critical Companion, 2017, etc.) gather a decade’s worth of their smart, lively writing about New Jersey’s most infamous crime family. As they note, The Sopranos was first shot in 1997, helmed by master storyteller David Chase, of Northern Exposure and Rockford Files renown, who unveiled his creation at an odd time in which Robert De Niro had just appeared in a film about a Mafioso in therapy. The pilot was “a hybrid slapstick comedy, domestic sitcom, and crime thriller, with dabs of ’70s American New Wave grit. It is high and low art, vulgar and sophisticated.” It barely hinted at what was to come, a classic of darkness and cynicism starring James Gandolfini, an actor “obscure enough that, coupled with the titanic force of his performance, it was easy to view him as always having been Tony Soprano.” Put Gandolfini together with one of the best ensembles and writing crews ever assembled, and it’s small wonder that the show is still remembered, discussed, and considered a classic. Seitz and Sepinwall occasionally go too Freudian (“Tony is a human turd, shat out by a mother who treats her son like shit”), though sometimes to apposite effect: Readers aren’t likely to look at an egg the same way ever again. The authors’ interviews with Chase are endlessly illuminating, though we still won’t ever know what really happened to the Soprano family on that fateful evening in 2007. “It’s not something you just watch,” they write. “It’s something you grapple with, accept, resist, accept again, resist again, then resolve to live with”—which, they add, is “absolutely in character for this show.”

Essential for fans and the definitive celebration of a show that made history by knowing the rules and breaking every one of them.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3494-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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