A thoroughly researched history of a lurid publisher and Americans’ lust for scandal.

CONFIDENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL

THE INSIDE STORY OF HOLLYWOOD'S NOTORIOUS SCANDAL MAGAZINE

In the 1950s, a sleazy gossip magazine that exposed movie stars’ private lives became a bestseller.

Historian and law professor Barbas (Univ. of Buffalo School of Law; Newsworthy: The Supreme Court Battle Over Privacy and Press Freedom, 2017, etc.) traces the creation, heyday, and demise of Confidential, a celebrity scandal magazine published by Robert Harrison (1904-1978), whose career in journalism took off in the 1940s with a spate of girlie magazines that featured scantily clad and naked “babes” along with a dollop of sadomasochism and fetishism. Always on the lookout for more readers, in 1953, Harrison focused on America’s 50 million moviegoers, who thronged to theaters each week and bought the many fan magazines that had proliferated since the 1920s. Harrison was not content with promoting the whitewashed images of stars put forth by studios. Instead, he gathered gossip from sources including hotel and restaurant workers, celebrities’ friends and enemies, hairdressers and bartenders, prostitutes and lovers, film crews, close and distant relatives, and “disgruntled maids and butlers.” Vetted by a team of lawyers, the stories in Confidential were written carefully to avoid libel suits—until some stars rose up indignantly and finally brought the magazine down. Harrison, as Barbas portrays him, was cynical, homophobic, and racist, attitudes reflected in his publications; one of his editors derided him as “rude, crude, and unlettered.” He was also “shrewd, meticulous, and demanding,” a workaholic and micromanager, with a sure eye for what the public wanted; in the 1950s, American readers wanted sleaze. “Confidential,” writes the author, “played to the fantasies, curiosities, and fears of a nation that was deeply conflicted about sex” and “offered an enticing vision of what a less-repressed world might look like.” Despite a veneer of cultural analysis, Barbas plays into the same desire for sleaze that fuels contemporary exposé publications by reprising in detail the magazine’s lewd revelations that shattered marriages, ruined careers, and shamed many individuals.

A thoroughly researched history of a lurid publisher and Americans’ lust for scandal.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-912777-54-2

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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