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A well-researched but critically toothless and ultimately depressing record of epic vulgarity and emotional incontinence.

Vanity Fair and Esquire contributor Kashner and Schoenberger (Creative Writing; William and Mary; Hollywood Kryptonite, the Bulldog, the Lady, and the Death of Superman, 2006, etc.) examine the union of Hollywood actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, larger-than-life figures who inspired the fevered fascination of their public and presaged the current age of media obsession with the private lives of celebrities.

Burton and Taylor were no strangers to notoriety before their fated meeting on the notoriously troubled production of their film Cleopatra (1963). When the two married stars brazenly flouted their new romance, a scandal of international proportions was born, prompting a media obsession with the couple that endured for decades. The Burtons gave good value. Their many health crises, career reversals, jet-set milieu, fabled screaming matches, sexual provocations and indulgences in luxury provided ample grist for the gossip mill, creating a virtual cottage industry out of Burton-watching. The authors’ view of the star-crossed thespians is overly sympathetic, detecting poetic depths of tragedy in behaviors that will likely strike the average reader as grotesquely immature, selfish and gratingly repetitive. The Burtons squabbled, made conspicuous love, occasionally made indifferent or outright poor films and spent lavishly on jewels, houses, yachts and oceans of alcohol. The glamour of their lifestyle begins to pall as it becomes evident that the couple was essentially a pair of privileged toddlers, indulging whims and throwing tantrums before a raptly scandalized world audience. The book is really Burton’s story, and the authors provide solid material on his humble upbringing, large, close family and his early incandescent stage career. Also compelling are the many excerpts from Burton’s personal correspondence, revealing an intelligent, articulate man hobbled by maudlin self-loathing and weakness of character. Taylor remains the remote, regal movie star, coddled and indulged since early childhood. Her monstrous sense of entitlement is easy to understand but difficult to stomach. The Burtons made significant contributions to cinema, but this book’s focus on their romance seems misplaced. In the words of Burton’s beloved Shakespeare, their story is merely full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

A well-researched but critically toothless and ultimately depressing record of epic vulgarity and emotional incontinence.

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-156284-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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