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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The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he...

LIVES OTHER THAN MY OWN

The latest from French writer/filmmaker Carrère (My Life as a Russian Novel, 2010, etc.) is an awkward but intermittently touching hybrid of novel and autobiography.

The book begins in Sri Lanka with the tsunami of 2004—a horror the author saw firsthand, and the aftermath of which he describes powerfully. Carrère and his partner, Hélène, then return to Paris—and do so with a mutual devotion that's been renewed and deepened by all they've witnessed. Back in France, Hélène's sister Juliette, a magistrate and mother of three small daughters, has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that crippled her in adolescence. After her death, Carrère decides to write an oblique tribute and an investigation into the ravages of grief. He focuses first on Juliette's colleague and intimate friend Étienne, himself an amputee and survivor of childhood cancer, and a man in whose talkativeness and strength Carrère sees parallels to himself ("He liked to talk about himself. It's my way, he said, of talking to and about others, and he remarked astutely that it was my way, too”). Étienne is a perceptive, dignified person and a loyal, loving friend, and Carrère's portrait of him—including an unexpectedly fascinating foray into Étienne and Juliette's chief professional accomplishment, which was to tap the new European courts for help in overturning longtime French precedents that advantaged credit-card companies over small borrowers—is impressive. Less successful is Carrère's account of Juliette's widower, Patrice, an unworldly cartoonist whom he admires for his fortitude but seems to consider something of a simpleton. Now and again, especially in the Étienne sections, Carrère's meditations pay off in fresh, pungent insights, and his account of Juliette's last days and of the aftermath (especially for her daughters) is quietly harrowing.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9261-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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