A charming look at a cherished American show.



A cartoon pioneer walks us down his Memory Lane.

In 1988, an at-the-time extremely progressive, heavily funded Fox network asked Matt Groening and Sam Simon to create a cartoon. Not believing that the show would be a success, they wrote scripts that would please them rather than imaginary viewers. But The Simpsons became a hit and made their creation a 20th-century institution. Reiss (Santa's Eleven Months Off, 2007, etc.) joined the crew of writers after many rejections for other positions. The Simpsons was not his first choice. During this time, he worked closely with the two creators, learning nearly everything through them. “A writers’ room is a delicate thing—it’s not enough to be funny; you also have to get along with everyone,” he writes. “One irritating or obstinate writer can bring the entire machinery of a show to a halt.” The author breaks down his story just like he would organize an episode of the show: in three acts. He takes us from his early days in the writer’s room to his subsequent excessive weight gain as a devoted writer who paid little attention to self-care, the various failed and successful visits he made to campuses around the country to discuss the show, and the behind-the-scenes nitty-gritty of production. Interspersed throughout are “Burning Questions,” assumedly those that people have asked him over the years. Each time, Reiss provides both a question and answer that injects the text with entertaining humor. “The Simpsons thrives on human stupidity,” writes the author. “The dumber people get, the better our show is.” Always honest, playful, and engaging, the book will provide fans with deep insight into the show’s history but also into its daily production and future. Superfans might even be tempted to go back to the first episode and experience the show all over again.

A charming look at a cherished American show.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-274803-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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

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