Juicy, but it leaves a nasty aftertaste.

AVA GARDNER

THE SECRET CONVERSATIONS

Based on the movie star’s late-night ramblings, an unvarnished account of her marriages and affairs in golden-age Hollywood.

The films she made weren’t the principal basis of Ava Gardner’s fame, so it’s no great disappointment that there’s little here about The Sun Also Rises, Mogambo or The Barefoot Contessa (to name the ones people might actually remember today). British journalist Evans (Nemesis: The True Story of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle That Brought Down the Kennedys, 2004, etc.) encouraged her to focus on her personal life, and she let loose with plenty of frank, bawdy material about husbands Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra, plus a long list of lovers topped by Howard Hughes and George C. Scott. But even as she was confiding that sex with Rooney was so great they were still indulging after their divorce and that Scott was a mean drunk who frequently beat her bloody, she was having second thoughts about a memoir. Broke and recovering from a stroke, she asked Evans to be her ghostwriter in 1988 because, she explained, “I either write the book or sell the jewels. And I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels.” But she never really liked the idea and was often shocked to read Evans’ transcriptions of her profanity-laden speech and the salacious stories she probably wished she’d kept to herself. Indeed, since Evans got most of this material from phone calls the insomniac Gardner made when she couldn’t sleep and had been drinking, the whole project smacks of exploitation, especially since Gardner eventually decided against allowing this revealing document to be published. Evans revived the project after her death with the permission of her estate, and the pages he produced before his death last year certainly give a vivid sense of Gardner’s salty, no-BS personality. Nonetheless, reading it feels somewhat like going through a person’s bureau drawers when she’s not home.

Juicy, but it leaves a nasty aftertaste.

Pub Date: July 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2769-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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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