Essential for students of film history, to say nothing of Kubrick’s most successful movie.

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SPACE ODYSSEY

STANLEY KUBRICK, ARTHUR C. CLARKE, AND THE MAKING OF A MASTERPIECE

A fascinating, detail-rich account of the long slog to make the science-fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999), writes Benson (Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time, 2014, etc.), was a slayer of genres. He reinvented film noir, the costume drama, the horror film, and the war movie. With 2001, over the course of seven years of hard work, he aimed to put his mark on science fiction, with his own unmistakable twist: “Kubrick’s method was to find an existing novel or source concept and adapt it for the screen, always stamping it with his own bleak—but not necessarily despairing—assessment of the human condition.” He found his sources in two places: the work of British science-fiction writer and technologist Arthur C. Clarke and the Homeric Odyssey. In the end, as Benson capably demonstrates, both those sources faded into the background. The Odyssey is perhaps best echoed by the deaths of all the crew members of Discovery, prompting Clarke to write in his journal, “after all, Odysseus was the sole survivor.” A couple of years after the film was released, Clarke recalled that it reflected 90 percent Kubrick’s genius, 5 percent the work of the special effects crew, and 5 percent his own contribution. That assessment was too modest, but Benson runs with the notion that this was Kubrick’s film through and through, and each minute of screen time reflected weeks of work and thought as well as many missteps and rethinkings (voice-over narration throughout, anyone?). The author turns in some memorable phrases—for instance, in his telling, the space between the known and the unknown is “that place science is always probing like a tongue exploring a broken tooth.” More importantly, it is the often fraught episodes of interaction between Kubrick and a phalanx of collaborators and contributors, most of them now forgotten, that drive this endlessly interesting narrative.

Essential for students of film history, to say nothing of Kubrick’s most successful movie.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6393-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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