A breezy and inviting biography from a self-described “zealot.”

JEROME ROBBINS

A LIFE IN DANCE

A compact and incisive portrait of the great dancer and choreographer.

In 2015, after Lesser (You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn, 2017, etc.) saw one of Robbins’ (1918-1998) final works, The Goldberg Variations, she sat “in a state of stunned amazement.” She welcomed the offer to write a biography for the publisher’s Jewish Lives series because she sees him as a “genius worth championing.” The author begins with Robbins as perhaps “the most hated man on Broadway.” Actors and dancers famously feared his “vicious outbursts” and “cruel perfectionism.” Others loved him deeply. He was always “high-strung and tormented,” according to one of his rehearsal pianists, and conflicted about his skills, homosexuality, and Jewish roots. Born Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz—he changed his name at the urging of a ballet teacher—to a “rarely affectionate” father and “forceful” mother, he possessed perfect pitch and an excellent sense of rhythm. He could “move naturally and expressively.” A stint at Camp Tamiment in the Catskills confirmed his first love, choreography. Throughout, Lesser focuses on Robbins as a “narrative artist,” perhaps one of the century’s “most powerful exemplars.” George Balanchine cast him in a musical in 1938, and Robbins soon began working with Leonard Bernstein. In 1951, he joined up with Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II on The King and I and developed a new style of dance, a “fusion between Eastern and Western modes.” A low point in his career came in 1953, when he named names for the House Un-American Activities Committee, something he later deeply regretted. The hits kept coming: Peter Pan, an “amazing achievement,” Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, and, with now close friend Bernstein, West Side Story, where he worked with a young Stephen Sondheim, who called Robbins the “only genius I’ve ever met.” As Lesser concludes, his “influence lives on even where his name may not.”

A breezy and inviting biography from a self-described “zealot.”

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-300-19759-4

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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