LAUGHING MATTERS

ON WRITING M A S H, TOOTSIE, OH, GOD!, AND A FEW OTHER FUNNY THINGS

A grab-bag of reminiscences, commentaries, bright jokes, and dark thoughts by a gifted comedy writer. Few comedy writers achieve such success that the general public knows their name. Gelbart is one such man. He has received critical and popular acclaim for his work onstage (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), film (Oh, God!), and television (M*A*S*H, Caesar's Hour). Therefore, it's all the more disappointing that his first book is so much less compelling than his work in other media. This is not an autobiography but a compilation of scattershot recollections of various creations, padded out with previously published articles, reviews, introductions, travel pieces, and script extracts. The best of this material (such as the memoirs and a section on the writing process) is witty, perceptive, and original. Other selections (brief profiles of beloved comedians, a selection of TV history highlights) seem superficial coming from a man who knows this world so intimately. The book also features frequent notes and introductions by editor Sam Vaughan, which add nothing but copious compliments to the author. Deserved as these compliments may be, it does seem odd to see such an irreverent artist delivered in such reverent wrapping. Finally, although we learn many of Gelbart's opinions, we learn little of the man beneath. Combine this with the realization that the script extracts provide the book's most vivid entertainment, and one is left with the feeling that one sentence by Gelbart is standing in for much that remains unsaid: ``There are those of us who have a problem being personal in our personal lives who are much more comfortable in work that is meant to be public.'' Although there is much to enjoy here, the overall impression is that of a book by a man who really didn't want to write one. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-42945-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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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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