PositiveThe Washington PostBrooks attacks his autobiography with a wholly characteristic lack of modesty. Some fans may feel they’ve heard much of this before ... Still, for those who maintain their fondness for Brooks, All About Me! is an indispensable culmination of his work (copious helpings of legendary dialogue from the films and shows don’t hurt) ... Many memoirs seek to score points off perceived adversaries. Brooks, who has certainly cultivated a healthy ego, does the opposite ... Where the book comes up short is in any exploration of doubt, introspection or analysis. Brooks’s career has had its ups and downs, for sure ... hand-wringing is simply not a part of Brooks’s sunny disposition. Indeed, the book’s most rewarding chapters are its earliest, with Brooks’s accounts of Depression-era Brooklyn and the European front of World War II (and the early days of television, for that matter). This isn’t Clifford Odets or Norman Mailer, but an epic adventure of possibility and positivity.
MixedThe Washington Post... a deeply researched and thoughtful framing of this pioneering musical, its time and its influence ... Gaines places the show within the broader American political and racial culture, making the book not only resonant but relevant. In addition to providing background on Jim Crow and the Great Migration ... Gaines is at his best when sourcing the wide-ranging voices of what at the time was called \'the Negro press\' ... Footnotes could have gone deeper in conveying the offstage or onstage theatrical magic of the show itself. Gaines doesn’t really spend enough time walking the reader through how Shuffle Along played onstage. He also glosses over discussion of integrated shows of the period, such as Show Boat .... Although Footnotes raises a detailed embroidered curtain on Shuffle Along and its elegant, ambitious Black pioneers, posterity is still keeping the show’s full achievement waiting in the wings.
PanThe Washington PostGeorge Gershwin’s sheer generosity of spirit radiates through Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music ... Crawford delivers a well-organized and scholarly framing of Gershwin’s life, but none of it is new or particularly insightful. Gershwin’s own evenhanded essays and think pieces (although they weren’t called that back then) have been collected and published for years; they’re the most edifying part of the book, at least when Crawford’s often redundant commentary moves out of the way to give them some oxygen ... Crawford seems ill at ease poking at these psychological runes; he’s even less adept at capturing the showbiz ethos of Gershwin’s life and achievements. He strains to transform a correspondence between Gershwin and Astaire’s sister Adele, the more popular member of their dancing duo, into a full-fledged romance ... Likewise, the summaries that Crawford supplies for the Gershwin brothers’ political satires (written in collaboration with George S. Kaufman)...are tone-deaf to their wisecracking sense of humor and their continued relevance as reflections of hypocrisy and duplicity in American politics ... his voluminous citations of long-dead, irrelevant critical gasbags (of both the musical and dramatic variety) only seem to reinforce an outdated, slightly tut-tutting overview of the composer’s struggles ... Gershwin... has left posterity, the rest of us and Crawford’s obdurate tome in the rearview mirror, striving in vain to catch up with the vistas of his vision.