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

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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