It’s time for another top-drawer Bogart book. Maybe next time.

TOUGH WITHOUT A GUN

THE LIFE AND EXTRAORDINARY AFTERLIFE OF HUMPHREY BOGART

Former Time contributor Kanfer (Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando, 2008, etc.) tackles the screen legend, last deeply examined in competing 1997 biographies by Jeffrey Meyers, and A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax.

The contours of the Humphrey Bogart (1899–1957) story are already familiar. Son of a wealthy New York surgeon, he was a prep-school failure and Navy vet who drifted into acting through the good graces of a friend’s father, Broadway producer William Brady. After years as a male ingénue, he broke through as gunman Duke Mantee in the 1935 theatrical production of Robert Sherwood’s The Petrified Forest. He flopped in Hollywood as a Fox contract player, but was signed by Warner Bros. after a sensational re-creation of his stage role. Following years playing ill-fated heavies on the Warner lot, Bogart finally made his mark in middle age as a tender-hearted hood in High Sierra (1941). Star-making, image-setting turns as detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and nightclub owner Rick Blaine in Casablanca (1942) followed. The boozing, brawling, chain-smoking Bogie, veteran of three bad marriages, settled down with his teenaged co-star Lauren Bacall, survived a 1947 face-off with congressional Red hunters that threatened his career and collected an Oscar for The African Queen (1951). Already an icon, he died of cancer at 57 and secured a posthumous cult in the ’60s. Though Kanfer draws on past interviews with intimates to tell his story, he admits that he was hamstrung by the fact that few eyewitnesses survive. His slim volume, which leans heavily on plot synopses in the late going, is filled with make-weight quotes from memoirs and biographies. The author provides enough padding to stuff a comfortable sofa (enough with the Raymond Chandler quotations), brings little fresh perspective about Bogie’s creation of the sensitive screen tough guy and offers facile observations about the disappearance of adult archetypes in today’s youth-oriented movies.

It’s time for another top-drawer Bogart book. Maybe next time.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-27100-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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