Belletti, alas, was a prosaic stylist, but her ingenuous point of view lends her stories charm.

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ADVENTURES OF A HOLLYWOOD SECRETARY

HER PRIVATE LETTERS FROM INSIDE THE STUDIOS OF THE 1920S

Snapshots from Hollywood’s early days.

The film business may have boomed in the 1920s, but Samuel Goldwyn’s secretary Valeria Belletti still had enough down time to get off long letters to lifelong friend Irma Prima back in New York City. Belletti’s correspondence survives, presented here with film scholar and author Beauchamp filling in background notes on some of the films and filmmakers Belletti mentioned to her friend. Belletti wrote to Irma that she approached Goldwyn with trepidation since he had a reputation for being a terror. Mrs. Goldwyn soon told Valeria the mogul liked her—after all, hadn’t he entrusted her to order bootleg booze for one of his parties? Belletti also got to know the stars on the Goldwyn lot—Ronald Coleman, Rudolph Valentino and an awkward, shy young actor she insisted Goldwyn hire, Gary Cooper. (Her potential courtship with Cooper faded as he headed to stardom.) Belletti also told her friend what was happening on and off the set. Especially poignant is an anecdote about Belle Bennett, who arrived to play the eagerly sought title role in Stella Dallas on the same day her teenaged son died of a sports injury. A single mother, Bennett had told people the boy was her brother. Writing about her personal life, Belletti often falls into a dullish “I’m fine/how are you” tone. However Bohemian her friends may have been, their behavior never rivaled that of their often scandalous Hollywood neighbors. “We sat in front of a big fireplace,” Belletti writes of an afternoon tea, “and had an enjoyable afternoon.”

Belletti, alas, was a prosaic stylist, but her ingenuous point of view lends her stories charm.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-520-24551-2

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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