DRAMA

AN ACTOR'S EDUCATION

In a tribute to his father and to his profession, the celebrated stage and screen actor rehearses his early career, cheerfully describing his successes and honestly recording his failures, professional and personal.

Lithgow, who has written eight books for children (I Got Two Dogs, 2008, etc.), begins in 2002 when his father’s health was failing rapidly. Serendipitously, the author decided to read aloud to him a story by P.G. Wodehouse, a story they both had loved when John was a child. A smile came to his father’s face, and the author believes this helped his recovery for another 18 months. (Later, we learn that the story—“Uncle Fred Flits By”—became the centerpiece of Lithgow’s one-man show Stories by Heart, a work he still performs regularly.) The author records fondly the peripatetic lifestyle of his childhood. His father, a theatrical nomad, traveled extensively, teaching, starting theater companies and festivals and mounting productions, especially of Shakespeare (one of the author’s life-long loves). His father never stayed anywhere long (his ambitions always exceeded his budgets—and, perhaps, his talent, though the author is far too kind to say so). Lithgow struggled through school—not with his studies (he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard) but with his uncertainty about whether to be an artist (painter) or actor. The latter won, of course, and Lithgow tells us about his school performances, his studies here and abroad, his tours and travails and his breaks in New York and Hollywood. He writes admiringly of his first wife—their marriage fractured when he commenced a number of torrid affairs during what he recognizes as a very late adolescence—and his subsequent 30-year marriage with his second wife, Mary. Not a complex or innovative writer, Lithgow nonetheless emerges as genial, gentle, generous, grateful, self-deprecating and proud but never arrogant.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-173497-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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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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