RaveNew York Journal of BooksRandy Rainbow isn’t one to shy away from serious ridiculousness. Rather, he revels in it. It’s part of his artistic palette. His new memoir Playing with Myself is a fearless Cinderella story of a little gay boy who staged an elaborate production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in his suburban Florida backyard and grew up to become both a Hooters host and song parody internet sensation. And in the process, he’s had a gay old time doing it, in every sense of that term ... Rainbow’s story hurtles forward in an inexorable zig-zagging trajectory ... One of the strongest chapters in is Rainbow’s near disaster with cancel culture ... Rainbow’s balance of self-deprecating humor and serious autobiography makes for a great read. Playing with Myself is aptly titled. Randy Rainbow is everything his fans want him to be: a joyful entertainer who loves performing for his delighted audience.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... a multifaceted look at one of the great modern novels. It’s part history of how the book came to be, part Vonnegut biography, and a thoughtful consideration of the book’s impact on America’s post-WWII combat vets ... an important consideration of Kurt Vonnegut and the legacy of Slaughterhouse-Five. Even better, Roston’s work will send readers back to the original novel, and with fresh new insights on Vonnegut’s complex masterpiece.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... definitive ... Curtis gives us the whole man ... In a pair of appendices, Curtis includes comprehensive summations of Keaton’s film and television works. They are grand lists of considerable length, a marvelous coda to a wonderful book. From start to finish Buster Keaton: A Filmmaker’s Life, with all its rich detail and Curtis’s genuine love for his subject, is the biography that Keaton deserves.
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksAll the elements are in place for a rip-roaring yard of epic proportions. Hill has a marvelous cast of characters with unique story arcs. At times his grandmother’s story feels like a Greek tragedy; at other times the story of Dane Harris, the liquor dealer turned Madden apprentice, plays like a slapstick farce, colored by the various crooked public officials who keep the Hot Springs vice business running ... Hill tells the story with varying success. At times the book feels like three different plot lines all vying for attention: the gangster superstar, the corrupt casino owner and his politician pals, and the woman who lives in the corrosion beneath the glamour. Hill just can’t maintain the frenetic energy of his prologue as he switches back and forth between his characters and their varying story threads. The Vapors is a new take on the familiar gangster history, but it needs just a little bit more cohesion to make it all fit together.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... a masterful narrative of the day, weaving together a cast of characters and events in a compelling work that reads like hands-on reportage from a writer who was on the scene. Achorn magnifies his writing with fresh research, including personal recollections by eyewitnesses and newspaper accounts of the day ... filled with remarkable personalities and figures who dwell on the periphery of the inauguration ... Achorn’s work is as epic as the topic deserves. His research is remarkable, telling the wider story through minute details and moments of deep meaning ... a welcome addition to the voluminous canon of Lincoln books. Through these pages Achorn transforms readers into spectators of history as it unfolds.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... takes neglected obituaries to new heights. Rocca extends the definition of death into extremes that are both logical and comical, and always respectful to the subject ... you can practically hear Rocca’s amusing, slightly nasal voice on the page ... is tinged with poignant moments ... droll, ironic, silly, poignant, and thoughtful all at once. This isn’t a book to read cover to cover, though that’s certainly not a bad route to take. Rather, it is a volume of delights that is best savored by skipping through the chapters at your own pace ... Death comes to everyone and everything. Mobituaries takes delight in that sting.