An impressive biography that will surely stand as the definitive De Niro volume.

DE NIRO

A LIFE

The life and work of the legendary actor.

Film critic and best-selling biographer Levy (Paul Newman: A Life, 2009, etc.) turns his attentive eye to another silver screen icon: Robert De Niro (b. 1943). Though De Niro has been a persistent pop-culture presence since his film career started over 40 years ago, he is famously reticent with the press. Paradoxically, De Niro, a man notorious for his intense and immersive performances, would often embarrassingly fumble through press interviews, hardly displaying the confidence and poise that he exudes on screen. Despite scant sources of candidness by De Niro, Levy expertly culls details for a vivid, complex portrait of the enigmatic actor, from his bohemian parents and upbringing amid the art scene of midcentury Manhattan to his rise alongside the auteur generation of new American filmmakers to his status as a revered idol. De Niro’s withholding of his personal life has created a mystique around him, an aura that Levy plays up by tracing De Niro’s lineage to an 11th-century Roman cavalryman, an audacious attempt to present his subject in a noble and rarefied air. It is, perhaps, the only misstep by Levy, but like any successful biographer, he captures not only the life of his subject, but the spirit of the times in which De Niro lived, simultaneously charting the success of collaborators and peers like Martin Scorsese. Levy is not simply star-struck; he objectively portrays the criticism of De Niro’s later career for choosing easy blockbuster fare. Perhaps the best symbols of De Niro’s dedication to his craft are the numerous anecdotes about his massive collection of stage props and set pieces. For De Niro, the success of a role was in his attention to detail, and he never relied on histrionics but rather a minimalist philosophy of revealing only a character’s essential emotions—much like he approached his own life.

An impressive biography that will surely stand as the definitive De Niro volume.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0307716781

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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