JEAN RENOIR

PROJECTIONS OF PARADISE

Film historian Bergan (The United Artists Story, not reviewed) contributes a warm and intelligent new biography of the great French filmmaker to the celebration of the centennial of his birth this fall. The son of Pierre Auguste Renoir, the Impressionist painter, Jean (18941979) became one of his father's favorite subjects not long after his birth. His youth was idyllic, protected by a loving family. Particularly in the early chapters dealing with Renoir's childhood, Bergan skillfully finds a tone akin to that of the director's films: gently meandering, loving, and good-humored, with more than a hint of melancholy. He meticulously relates Renoir's life to his work, showing how such experiences as a youthful first encounter with a puppet theater and wartime service in the trenches and as an airborne observer were later put to use in his films. Like Renoir, Bergan is scrupulously honest in depicting his characters, offering balanced portraits of the director's first wife, the pampered, self-regarding actress Catherine Hessling; his frequent collaborator, the sometimes temperamental actor Jean Gabin; and a series of Hollywood producers who blighted the years during which WW II forced Renoir to work in America. The author also offers discriminating, if brief, critical commentary on all of Renoir's films; he is enthusiastic, but his analyses are thoughtful and generally on the mark. On the downside, as Renoir's filmmaking career begins to slow down after his trilogy of mid-'50s masterpieces—The Golden Coach, French Cancan, and ElÇna et les Hommes—the narrative becomes somewhat perfunctory. One wishes that Bergan had continued to lavish on readers the details in which earlier sections of the book revel. One also hopes that some smart publisher will bring out English-language editions of Renoir's letters and novellas, still unpublished in the US. A charming work that successfully and lovingly evokes the world of one of the cinema's true giants.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 1994

ISBN: 0-87951-537-6

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

DAD'S MAYBE BOOK

Ruminations and reminiscences of an author—now in his 70s—about fatherhood, writing, and death.

O’Brien (July, July, 2002, etc.), who achieved considerable literary fame with both Going After Cacciato (1978) and The Things They Carried (1990), returns with an eclectic assembly of pieces that grow increasingly valedictory as the idea of mortality creeps in. (The title comes from the author’s uncertainty about his ability to assemble these pieces in a single volume.) He begins and ends with a letter: The initial one is to his first son (from 2003); the terminal one, to his two sons, both of whom are now teens (the present). Throughout the book, there are a number of recurring sections: “Home School” (lessons for his sons to accomplish), “The Magic Show” (about his long interest in magic), and “Pride” (about his feelings for his sons’ accomplishments). O’Brien also writes often about his own father. One literary figure emerges as almost a member of the family: Ernest Hemingway. The author loves Hemingway’s work (except when he doesn’t) and often gives his sons some of Papa’s most celebrated stories to read and think and write about. Near the end is a kind of stand-alone essay about Hemingway’s writings about war and death, which O’Brien realizes is Hemingway’s real subject. Other celebrated literary figures pop up in the text, including Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Marvell, George Orwell, and Flannery O’Connor. Although O’Brien’s strong anti-war feelings are prominent throughout, his principal interest is fatherhood—specifically, at becoming a father later in his life and realizing that he will miss so much of his sons’ lives. He includes touching and amusing stories about his toddler sons, about the sadness he felt when his older son became a teen and began to distance himself, and about his anguish when his sons failed at something.

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-618-03970-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

WARHOL

An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art from Gopnik (co-author: Warhol Women, 2019), who served as chief art critic for the Washington Post and the art and design critic for Newsweek.

With a hoarder’s zeal, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) collected objects he liked until shopping bags filled entire rooms of his New York town house. Rising to equal that, Gopnik’s dictionary-sized biography has more than 7,000 endnotes in its e-book edition and drew on some 100,000 documents, including datebooks, tax returns, and letters to lovers and dealers. With the cooperation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques. Warhol exploded into view in his mid-40s with his pop art paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans and silkscreens of Elvis and Marilyn. However, fame didn’t banish lifelong anxieties heightened by an assassination attempt that left him so fearful he bought bulletproof eyeglasses. After the pop successes, Gopnik writes, Warhol’s life was shaped by a consuming desire “to climb back onto that cutting edge,” which led him to make experimental films, launch Interview magazine, and promote the Velvet Underground. At the same time, Warhol yearned “for fine, old-fashioned love and coupledom,” a desire thwarted by his shyness and his awkward stance toward his sexuality—“almost but never quite out,” as Gopnik puts it. Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on “as a true rival of all the greats who had come before” and that he and Picasso may now occupy “the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses.” Any controversy will certainly befit a lodestar of 20th-century art who believed that “you weren’t doing much of anything as an artist if you weren’t questioning the most fundamental tenets of what art is and what artists can do.”

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229839-3

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more