A dynamic, if sometimes overly detailed, autobiographical debut.

THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROOM

A LIFE IN MUSIC THEATER

A musician, playwright, dancer, and composer fondly remembers his lengthy, memorable life in musical theater.

Mathews was born to Catholic parents in Rockford, Illinois, in 1942, and he was named Ignatius Norman Cancelose, much to his chagrin; he’d change it later on. Mathews shares stories (which obviously tickle him) of his relatives’ amusement at his “incessant singing and dancing”; he enrolled in dancing school at age 4. He also had a distinct affinity for music and movies, which he would be exposed to during family day trips to Chicago. His accounts of his school experiences encompass all the insecurities and foibles inherent in the awkward adolescence of an unathletic but musically inclined young man. His burgeoning same-sex attraction directly challenged the teachings of his Catholic education, however, and the words of a local monsignor on the subject (“may God have mercy on your evil soul”) were psychologically damaging. However, Mathews followed his heart and focused his mind on two things: his theatrical aspirations and other young men. The wide variety of musical theater offerings in New York City in the late 1950s enchanted him further, and high school and college fortified Mathews with drama classes and ballet training, which further solidified his interest in the performing arts. He went on to land an editing position at Ballroom Dance Magazine, and from his mid-20s, his career in dance performance and musical theater began an incremental ascent. It would eventually include theatrical scores, playwriting ventures, and award-winning collaborations. However, a suicide attempt, insecurities about his sexuality, and health and career setbacks in the 1980s provided stumbling blocks along the way. The author, now 76, clearly delights in detailing his life story, starting with his Sicilian ancestry and his grandparents, who arrived in America via Ellis Island. He goes on to present his distinguished life on Broadway with all the glow of center stage and the nerve-wracking thrill of opening night. Overall, he delivers an alluring autobiography of a man “who wore enough hats to fill a millinery shop” thanks to a highly varied career that included editing, dancing, and musical composition. However, its verbosity does work against it at times; the author piles on expository details, particularly in the first half, which sometimes results in a sluggish pace. Still, many readers—and fans of classic Broadway musical theater, in particular—may find that they don’t mind the author’s long-windedness in the earlier sections, as they’ll gleefully discover that the book’s second half is fully stocked with accounts of stage shows galore—not to mention impressive name-dropping (Barbra Streisand, Betty Grable, Dorothy Lamour, Gene Kelly). These anecdotes from the theater’s social scene glide alongside vivid imagery from the author’s performances and other successes. The book also has a delightful, chatty sense of humor with moments of wry wit that make it exciting to read. In the end, it effectively celebrates a life of artistic inspiration alongside the giddiness and glory of live theater.  

A dynamic, if sometimes overly detailed, autobiographical debut.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73236-710-4

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Eburn Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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 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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