A complex, intimate, and illuminating inquiry into and defense of Brando.

THE CONTENDER

THE STORY OF MARLON BRANDO

A new biography of a legendary actor who “used his fame to draw attention to racism and injustice.”

It has been 25 years since Peter Manso’s 1,000-page Brando: The Biography, and award-winning biographer Mann (The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America’s Greatest Political Family, 2016, etc.) believes Manso (and “conventional wisdom”) incorrectly portrays Brando (1924-2004) as “eccentric, erratic, narcissistic and hypocritical.” In this meticulously researched book, bolstered by access to the Brando estate, Mann “attempts to see Brando’s life, career, choices, and actions in a new light.” The author describes him as a “thinker, an observer, an examiner of himself and the world, with the goal of figuring out both.” He sympathetically portrays Brando as a survivor of childhood trauma, the only son of alcoholic parents: an abusive father and a distant, neglectful mother Brando loved dearly. Mann begins in 1943 in New York City, where the impoverished high school dropout studied at the New School’s Dramatic Workshop. He was insecure about many things but not sex, and his womanizing would always be a problem. The gifted teacher, Stella Adler, took “her young student under her wing.” She wanted to make him great, but for Brando, acting would always be a “lark, a game of pretense.” Although he was in a dark place, Brando did A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway primarily because of director Elia Kazan, whom Brando greatly admired. After its success, Mann writes, he “knew his life was no longer his own.” In 1963, he walked with the Congress on Racial Equality—he believed that “if more people knew about the reality of racial discrimination, they wouldn’t stand for it”—and he was furious over what the studio did to his directorial debut, One-Eyed Jacks. Throughout, Mann balances Brando’s reluctance to act with excellent insights into his finest performances. Brando enjoyed the improvisation he brought to The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris; it made acting seem “fun and creative.” For Mann, Brando was always a “searcher” who “spent his life trying to become ever more conscious.”

A complex, intimate, and illuminating inquiry into and defense of Brando.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-242764-9

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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