Lavish and extravagant, gossipy yet even-handed, maximizing a great story: likely to become the standard text on the...

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MR. AND MRS. HOLLYWOOD

EDIE AND LEW WASSERMAN AND THEIR ENTERTAINMENT EMPIRE

A Hollywood biography more dramatic and enthralling than most of what its subjects produce.

Although they were the quintessential Hollywood power couple, Edie and Lew Wasserman never cared for publicity—and with good reason, as they came from different sides of the same crooked coin. Born in Cleveland in the early part of the 20th century, Edie to a wealthy German-American Jewish family and Lew (then Louis) to dirt-poor Russian-Jewish immigrants, they each had roots in organized crime. Edie’s father was an infamous fixer for the Cleveland Syndicate, while Lew booked nightclub acts into Mob-owned joints in Cleveland, then Chicago, for the nascent MCA talent agency. Boston Globe Hollywood correspondent Sharp (In Good Faith, 1995) begins her narrative in 1958, when the couple were already king and queen of Hollywood, judiciously ladling in the juicy background info later. By the late ’50s, Lew was not only running MCA, the mega-agency that locked up most of the Hollywood talent just as the studio system began to crumble, he had recently bought the land that cash-strapped Universal sat on, becoming the studio’s landlord and ultimately its owner for a mere $12 million. After that, the coups rat-a-tat, as Lew courts up-and-coming politicos JFK and Reagan, sidesteps a Justice Department antitrust investigation, maneuvers MCA’s (and then Universal’s) TV division into a profit powerhouse, introduces the modern blockbuster with Jaws, and so on, before passing away in 2002. Not surprisingly, Edie is often shoved to the background here, but Sharp ably depicts her conniving ways as the queen bee of Hollywood society, somebody who wasn’t afraid to use any means at her disposal to get ahead, just like her husband. The author is alternately enraptured and horrified by the Wassermans, as most anyone would be when confronted by such a staggering amount of guile, ambition, and cold-blooded genius.

Lavish and extravagant, gossipy yet even-handed, maximizing a great story: likely to become the standard text on the Wassermans.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1220-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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