A valuable, absorbing contribution to the history of women, golden-age Hollywood, and America’s magazine culture of the...

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Such Mad Fun

AMBITION AND GLAMOUR IN HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE

A biography of Jane Hall, a writer for magazines and movies, traces the complicated, warring pressures of talent and the feminine mystique.

Cutler (The Laughing Desert, 2012, etc.), a historian, tells the story of her mother’s life. Born in an Arizona mining town in 1915, Hall had published poems, short stories, articles, and more by the time she was 15. After her parents died, Hall and her brother moved east in 1930 to live with her aunt and uncle, part of Manhattan’s privileged elite. In 1933, Hearst’s New York American called her “one of the season’s most ‘prominent debutantes.’ ” Hall began selling stories and moved to Hollywood in 1937, where her colleagues included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dashiell Hammett, and Anita Loos. Hall’s hard work and gift for dialogue earned her a good reputation; she worked on a half-dozen films, such as These Glamour Girls (1939). Cosmopolitan published that movie as a novel and featured her on the cover, writing that Hall “would rather be considered a glamour girl than a successful writer,” adding “She is both”—but not for much longer. In 1940, she married Robert Frye Cutler, a theatrical producer. They had Robin in 1944. Hall soon lost momentum as a writer; her last penciled diary comment, dated 1951, reads: “I haven’t written anything for years….I feel peaceful, quite resigned, and also, much of the time, quite dead.” Her marriage faltered, especially after her husband became an invalid, but she found some happiness in a warm, supportive friendship with a married man. She died in 1987. In this well-researched account, with full scholarly apparatus, the author thoughtfully examines the allure and trap of glamour. In this, Hall’s story mirrors those of many female professionals even today, who face immense pressures to maintain a certain look. Hall’s brushes with Hollywood and literary celebrities make great reading. Fitzgerald gave her an inscribed copy of Tender Is the Night (“the book may have been his warning to Jane about the consequences of marrying the wrong person, and the seductive power of wealth, alcohol, and a world of superficiality and showiness”). This portrait of a more literary mass-market America offers much food for reflection on modern culture.

A valuable, absorbing contribution to the history of women, golden-age Hollywood, and America’s magazine culture of the 1930s and ’40s.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9974823-1-7

Page Count: 328

Publisher: View Tree Press

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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