WINCHELL

GOSSIP, POWER AND THE CULTURE OF CELEBRITY

A dauntingly complete portrait of the one of the most powerful and significant figures in American journalism. Walter Winchell was all but forgotten at his death, but he created the modern gossip column and spearheaded the rise of the culture and cult of celebrity. Gabler (An Empire of Their Own, 1988) explains that Winchell uniquely understood that gossip ``was a weapon of empowerment for the reader and listener.'' Born to a Jewish family at the turn of the century, Winchell was an unlikely candidate for national power. After a childhood of Dickensian poverty, he escaped to vaudeville and then moved into journalism. Possessor of a slang-riddled prose style all his own, he was catapulted to fame covering Broadway for the Daily Graphic, a tabloid even more sleazy than any imagined in the mind of Rupert Murdoch. From there he moved to the slightly more legit Mirror, where he gradually switched from covering the demimonde of show folk and the night-clubbing rich to pontificating on national and local politics as a staunch New Dealer. But when FDR died, Winchell began an inexorable shift to the right, eventually falling in with the most scurrilous of red-baiters. A vindictive, selfish man, he died almost forgotten by the world of the famous that he had once terrorized. Gabler tells his rise-and-fall story in almost exhausting detail, recounting Winchell's constant feuding with colleagues and subjects, his army of sycophants, and his troubled family life. The result is alternately riveting and enervating, but Gabler makes a convincing case for Winchell's central role in the transformation of mass media in the middle years of the century. Clearly, the ghost of Walter Winchell is abroad in the land at a time when the O.J. Simpson preliminary hearings merit network coverage and a Supreme Court confirmation hearing does not. Gabler's book is timely, incisive and, for the most part, a good read.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-41751-6

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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