Levy’s spirited history is nothing less than a love letter to Rome’s luxurious, sensational past.




A cultural history reveals an effervescent decade of riches in postwar Rome.

In this ebullient tour of Rome in the 1950s, film critic and celebrity biographer Levy (De Niro: A Life, 2014, etc.) portrays the city as a burgeoning center of fashion, photography, and, especially, movies. The star of the book—and the most glittering star to emerge from the period—is Sophia Loren, “the greatest living vessel of any number of traits associated with Italy: sensuality, practicality, endurance, glamour, an ironic sense of humor, a zest for the simple pleasures of life.” At first sight, gushes the author, Loren stood out as “one of those superhuman creatures known as movie stars.” Loren, though, is not alone in meriting Levy’s attention. The author traces Federico Fellini’s career from the time he was a journalist to his triumphs as a director, focusing on the conception, casting, and filming of the controversial La Dolce Vita (1960), starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg, and 8 ½ (1963), the film that “mixed dream and nightmare and fantasy and real life,” and which some critics deemed the director’s masterpiece. Others colorfully portrayed in Levy’s large cast include actresses Anna Magnani, Gina Lollobrigida (beautiful, but hardly comparable to Loren), Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, and Audrey Hepburn; directors Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and Pier Paolo Pasolini; fashion designers Emilio Pucci, Simonetta, and Valentino; and assorted playboys such as Porfirio Rubirosa, who frequented the posh clubs and restaurants on the Via Veneto. That street, and the Trevi Fountain, in which Ekberg famously cooled her feet, mark two of the only sites that Levy describes; physical Rome recedes as he focuses on personalities, careers, and piles of celebrity gossip. To that end, he follows the careers of Rome’s famous photographers, dubbed paparazzi after Fellini portrayed them in La Dolce Vita as “a writhing, snapping, shouting mass.”

Levy’s spirited history is nothing less than a love letter to Rome’s luxurious, sensational past.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-24758-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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