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An entertaining but slight merger of social and personal history, via the lens of popular culture.

Amusing fusion of memoir and cultural critique, focusing on the family saga none of us could refuse.

Broadway theater manager Santopietro (Sinatra in Hollywood, 2008, etc.) asserts that with the 1972 release of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, “notions of ethnicity in America had been upended in rather spectacular fashion” especially for young Italian-Americans who felt conflicted about many aspects of their heritage, including a stifling emphasis on family ties, love for America paired with distrust of authority and, of course, a convenient stereotype of pervasive criminal involvement. The author claims that it was his early viewings of the film and its sequels that revealed to him “just what had transpired in my grandfather’s leap to L’America,” allowing him to transition into a family history in which his grandparents settled in Waterbury, Conn., around 1917, where the effects of anti-immigrant prejudice were evident despite the Italian community’s established local roots. Since his most of his mother’s family were locally prominent WASPs, this resulted in an embarrassed confusion regarding his upbringing and inner identity. His narrative shifts between this personal history and an examination of the production and impact of the three Godfather films. He discusses many intriguing aspects of the original production, including studio resistance to Coppola and the actors Al Pacino and Marlon Brando (their indelible performances notwithstanding), and the long-rumored presence of actual mobsters on the set. He also explores other relevant cultural tangents, such as the many shoddy pastiches of mob culture (and some good ones, like The Sopranos) and the transformative impact of unapologetic paisano Frank Sinatra. The writing is slick, and most engaging when Santopietro looks back nostalgically at his personal history, but many of the observations drawn about the Godfather trilogy’s effect on American society since then seem familiar.

An entertaining but slight merger of social and personal history, via the lens of popular culture.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00513-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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