PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... compelling ... It is obvious that Alter still admires Carter greatly but does not pull any punches from examining his failures as well. And the author interviewed Carter many times for this thorough and deftly condensed assessment of the political legacies of the Carter administration ... Alter also brings dimension to Carter’s personal life ... Alter provides a multi-dimensional portrait of an American president’s journey as a husband, father, and perhaps his most fulfilling role, as humanitarian ... In a year when the current administration scandal books are glutting the bestseller lists this is a most welcome biography of a busy 96-year-old ex-president who is still out there, with Rosalyn, working to build a better world despite the raging political storms.
Curzio Malaparte, trans. by Stephen Twiley
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksMalaparte was admired for his journalistic prose; his verite style diary entries are often a poetic portrait of a city trying to rebuild, even as they try to put years of loss, grief, and war trauma behind them and move on. As critical as he is about Italy, he doesn’t hold back his disillusionment about what he experiences in post-war France ... It is challenging to get into the rhythm of the book, but once you are on the same page as Malaparte, daily on the streets, salons, theaters, hovels, hotels, bars, gardens and grottos it is well worth the trip. Many of the author’s diary entries are written with a singularly objective eye and poetic heart. The verite style imagery sees the stark realities of daily life for a concussed French population of a haunted Paris.
Stephen Twilley translates the book with admirable precision for English readers from Malaparte’s Italian and French text.
Lesley M. M. Blume
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksBlume condenses a lot of military, government, and behind the scenes news business history over this most momentous event in world history. It is a brilliantly conceived and impeccably researched book ... should sit next to it on the shelf as a testament of the courage of a free press to report the truth no matter who attempts to silence their mission.
Molly McCully Brown
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... a moving collection ... Brown is a superb essayist in both technical form and unexpected titles alone make you want to read them ... passionate, wry, and unflinchingly frank ... an unblinking personal journey that takes us to places we all need to know and understand better.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksWritten with journalistic urgency the authors paint a scathing portrait of a corrupt city politics and police state tactics unleashed on anyone who challenges their authority ... Weiner and Davis condense a lot of local history and some chapters are more comprehensive than others, but throughout the book the detailing on little knowns aspects of the socio-political landscape of L.A. vis-à-vis, the rest of the country brings penetrates the same tropes of generational perspectives, racial divisiveness, sexual mores, and culturally divisive ’60s ... Some of Set the Night on Fire is overreaching. The chapters that cover the burgeoning new feminist movement and Asian American organizations, for instance, seem to get short shrift in this volume. But for the most part, this is a stunning history of a defining time in L.A. of everyday Americans, and the many unsung minority heroes who put themselves on the line for civil rights and equal treatment.
Anton Chekhov, Trans. by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksIn reading the new masterful translations by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky nothing seems lost or Anglicized for effect. Reading these stories, a century later one thinks how prescient Chekhov was: arch, provocative, sardonic, cryptic, and a master of the short-story form ... Chekhov’s miniature prose dramas and comedies present a gallery of unforgettable characters. Many are stylistically Russian fables with scabrous morals about the follies and failures of humans. His often-cryptic endings to his stories or plot red herrings that were an excuse to get to some humanistic and universal truths leave readers to scratch their heads, but still trying to figure out the literary puzzle.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... emotionally raw ... The book’s structure is jarring, and its rhythm fragmented and deliberately incomplete. Nothing is buttoned up into a neat, conclusive narrative ... [Lisicky\'s] unfiltered voice is a primal scream throughout the book as Lisicky tries to navigate being an emotional and sexually active gay man looking for love and personal liberation in a catastrophic time ... sags in spots like a relentless diary of ennui and the author basically being pissed off at everything, obsessing on relationship drama and unresolved family matters. But ultimately it is a frank remembrance of things past, and almost despite its author’s efforts it becomes more than a self-lacerating confessional.
MixedThe New York Journal of Books... perhaps too narratively stylized ... Towne’s book laces in such cinematic prose devises and the hothouse atmospherics of ’30s crime fiction of Chandler and Dashell Hammett and some gossipy tangents that should have ended up on the cutting room floor ... The heart of the book deftly describes the Polanski’s methods as a hands-on director and the artistic vision of the four main players that veer from simpatico to a test of wills. And some thrilling prose re-enactments from the actors’ perspective ... Wasson’s four main bio tracks seem to pull him in too many directions and sabotages the flow of the book. Wasson’s overreaching style aims to evoke the cynical and romantic atmosphere achieved in the movie, not to mention its dark poetic mystique.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... the author covers a lot of new ground ... There is ome overindulgence on certain stars, and there are glaring omissions on some key people working behind the scenes—Roger Edens, for instance, the musical arranger and vocal coach to many stars, including Garland ... One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Basinger’s analysis of the cultural backdrops of every era that made musicals inspire a nation in the darkest days of the Depression and WWII, to decades in which musicals were box-office poison, but continued to change with the culture ... Basinger touches on issues of racial stereotypes, but perhaps gives a more in-depth history about the treatment of minority performers and the destructive cultural impact of racially demeaning characters that was the norm in musicals for decades ... The dicey technical and artistic aspects of converting successful Broadway musicals into hit movies is rigorously detailed by Basinger. The Movie Musical is entertaining and on balance a comprehensive study. For musical film buffs this book is a trove of details about screen adaptations of big Broadway musicals.
Jerome Robbins, Ed. by Amanda Vaill
RaveNew York Journal of BooksJerome Robbins, By Himself is a captivating self-portrait, of the man, the artist and his times ... Robbins’ diaries are conversational, intimate, and penned with candor and clarity about his successes and failures both professional and personal ... This beautifully assembled volume features extensive photographs throughout the text and gorgeous color prints of Robbins’ diary entries that contain his own illustrations. Jerome Robbins, By Himself is an unfiltered look at a creative force of nature and an uncompromising artist who just happened to be one of the architects of a golden age of American dance and musical theater.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksLyon and Windsor had not finished the manuscript at the time of her death in 2017. And Lyon wondered whether he could still finish the book. He need not have worried; the book is told mostly in Windsor’s own voice, Lyon filling in any gaps from extensive interviews, and his own research with Windsor’s colleagues, family, friends ... Windsor also writes inspiringly about how the lesbian community in New York stood in solidarity with gay men during the worse years of the AIDS epidemic in New York ... Thea had almost total paralysis, and all that would entail arranging a wedding in Canada to get married, not only to publicly acknowledge their relationship but to secure any legal standing as a couple. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved on the chapters on Edie and Thea dealing with everything they did during that time in their lives.
MixedNew York Journal of BooksThere have been many biographies of Joplin, and this new one by Holly George Warren covers a cyclone of lore about Joplin...but Warren gives equal attention to Joplin’s sensitive, more guarded personality behind what drove her as a blues-rock diva ... Warren doesn’t sidestep the tragic circumstances of Joplin’s accidental drug overdose, and her account of the star’s final days are sensitive and dignified ... But in other areas of this biography, Warren seems to dwell on gossipy accounts or one-night stands and, of course, drug benders of the glory days of rock, the permanent afterburn of Joplin’s blazing stardom.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... a highly entertaining, if gossipy, biography of the star and her times. And her singular fearlessness in navigating the fickle and brutal world of commercial theater in the US ... Most engaging is Jacobs’ portrait of Stritch as the sensitive theater artist she actually was with a warts and all portrait of the inimitable Stritchy.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... a working thesis that busts open a lot of sanitized academic and industry lore ... Admirably, in A Subversive History Gioia articulates what made pioneering outlier musicians subversive separate from the lore of their celebrity status. And most illustrative, he examines the underlying trends under the mainstream radar that emerge in spite of mainstream cultural orthodoxy ... Gioia’s theories of musical trends vis-à-vis changing cultural landscapes, past and present, are also brought into sharp focus ... Gioia details such fascinating musical revolutions of the louche musical underground of 19th century Paris, Amsterdam ... As comprehensive as it is, as in Gioia’s other encyclopedic volumes, there are questionable omissions. Scant mention of the modernist symphonic innovations of Gustav Mahler, for instance. Or referencing more recent eras, his attention on the cultural impact of the Sex Pistols, but almost nothing about David Bowie’s music except for his glam persona ... But those occasional slights in Music: A Subversive History, are outweighed by this vibrant study, which goes a long way in correcting a lot of music history that has been ossified by industry and academic orthodoxy.
MixedNew York Journal of BooksMcGough’s memoir is frustrating in some ways, leaving a lot said between the lines in his memoir, especially the disastrous relationship with Bastian. Meanwhile, he writes a clear-eyed portrait of the realities of the arts scene of the era. And McGough’s candid account of trying to survive AIDS, poverty, and lost love and still create art despite all odds is a moving self-portrait.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... powerful ... Jones’ frank and dramatically poetic prose makes How We Fight for Our Lives a personal, inspiring manifesto of self-acceptance as an out, proud, and successful black gay American ... Along with being explicitly frank about sexuality and emotional trauma and repressed anger, the central theme of this memoir is his powerful and loving tribute to his mother Carol and the indelible bonds between his mother and her gay son.
Gabriel García Márquez
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... presents fragments of evidence to get to the truth but is heavy-handed as he tries to dig through official malfeasance, media red herrings, and verifiable facts. Part of the story is that the truth (and the story) gets lost in the shuffle as the author tries to be ironic, accusatory, and clever all at once ... despite the central disappointment of the title story in this collection, there are bountiful literary treasures by Marquez to make up for it. Chief among them, the events of the Cuban revolution, with frontline reporting of the Castro revolution, as well as hawk eye reporting of the fall of dictators all over South America in Argentina, Columbia, and Venezuela—always with the plight and voice of the people the narrative objective ... There are also stories of the macabre that startle, and indeed are questionable from a journalistic point of view, but have fascinating echoes of magic realism making one wonder why a news editor wouldn’t flag them ... laced throughout these stories, Marquez writes with intimacy about his family and his most beloved home: Mexico City, as well as his wry and often hilarious encounters with many artists and writers everywhere his itinerant reporter’s soul would take him.
Guillermo Saccomanno, Trans. by Andrea G. Labinger
RaveNew York Journal of Books...vivid atmospheric and visceral impact. Nothing is lost in this translation; the characters are fictitious but the political dystopia Saccomanno depicts is all too real ... Saccomanno’s atmospherics can also be as sensual as film noir, where everything is suggested, anticipated and all the more powerful in its impact. Gomez’s escapist sex life is thrillingly erotic. Gomez is both tragically real and hallucinatory on the page, fearful and courageous at once. Saccomanno vivid characters and the brutal truths of this era in Argentina is the searing backdrop of Gomez’s narrative. One or two plot twists in the final chapters of the book strike one as contrived, but even with some of its fictive devices, Saccomanno builds the atmosphere of fear, dread, and paranoia with a cast of believable characters trying to survive under the siege of Argentina’s guerra sucia, (dirty war). 77 is, among other things, a potent reminder of the gruesome paths of totalitarian dictators.
PositiveNew York Journal of Books\"Castellani straddles a literary high-wire act, writing believable dialogue not only for Williams and Merlo, but other celebrities ... Williams’ readers will revel in Castellani’s stylish period atmospherics and arch dialogue of the celebrities in Willliams’ orbit—even though Williams careens from believable to vaporous in key moments. Meanwhile, the novel sweeps you up in its wry prose, particularly the fully dimensional portrait of Merlo ... Less successful are depictions of Williams in late life and the fate of Anja, now a retired film star, haunted by the past and her relationship with Williams and Frank. She is talked into staging Williams’ final unpublished play, which brings in new characters and some forced plot devises that start to grind. But past those forced storylines, Castellani delivers a touching, and often eloquent dramatization of one of the most legendary gay couples in theatrical history.\
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksIt is a rare arts journalist who can make reporting on the fiscal infrastructure of an opera company as interesting as the backstage dramas of directors, composers, conductors, musicians, designers and, of course, opera singers, but Wall Street Journal opera critic Heidi Waleson does just that ... Waleson’s reporting of the tumultuous history of NYCO is arts journalism at its best. And it should be a read as a cautionary manual of how to run, and not run, a performing arts organization.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksReynolds’ investigative analysis is a prescient reality check ... a vital almost up to the minute barometer of where LGBTQ civil and human rights stand ... [Reynolds’] style is one based on meticulous research and thorough sourcing that is a bit heavy at times, but this is vital documentation of the gay civil rights movement in our perilous times. That it comes out on the 40th anniversary of Harvey Milk’s death honors the work of a transformational politician and testament to his enduring legacy.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksVerdi’s life was the stuff operas are made of: sex scandals, political turmoil, creative pitfalls, testy divas, and meddling producers, but nothing stopped him from becoming the most famous opera composer in the world and an Italian national hero to boot. That he was able even to rebuild his life after the deaths of his young wife and two infant children is testament to his steely resolve. Music historian John Suchet’s chronicles the composer’s life and storied times in Verdi: The Man Revealed.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksIt is part ballet primer and a lively insider peek into the technical aspects and the enduring magic of the dance world ... Jacobs brings us into the creative, even poetic, realms of the dance and also, in concrete terms examines the origins and mechanics of ballet from its history in the court of Louis XIV, to the development of the pointe shoe and its transformational powers as the \'wings\' of a ballerina ... As accessible as Jacobs makes this history for general readership, Celestial Bodies is basically for students of dance and avid balletomanes.
Robert W. Fieseler
PositiveNew York Journal of Books\"Fieseler’s fully sourced research correct[s] the record of shoddy crime work by both the New Orleans police and federal investigators ... Fieseler condenses a lot of history of The Big Easy, which wasn’t so easy for everybody and its conflicted image as a gay mecca, but otherwise was a completely oppressed community. Tinderbox paints a vivid picture of the (in)visible gay community of about 400,000 strong, but where a gay person could still be arrested for even the suspicion of being gay or their names were printed in the paper if a bar was raided, people could be fired from their jobs, and routinely barred from many professions. Fieseler does invaluable investigative reporting of the social landscape of the era and writes with sensitivity about the many victims of the fire, their lovers, their families, their survival and the profound effect it had on GLBTQ community in NOLA ... Tinderbox is a reminder that this history can never be forgotten as the backlash against GLBTQ civil rights are once again under attack.\