PositiveThe Washington Post... affectionate but clear-eyed ... looking back as a 75-year-old, Mills can be tart about her former employer: \'When it came to dealmaking, the Mickey Mouse Club took no prisoners.\' She can also be refreshingly honest about her mother’s alcoholism, her own bulimia and her troubled first marriage to Roy Boulting, a film director 32 years her senior ... About later relationships and struggles, Mills remains mostly mum for, as the title suggests, this is the story of a girl.
PositiveThe Washington Post... a well-paced, tightly plotted, deeply researched exercise that suggests the kind of family franchise one might actually want to keep reading ... Leonard intelligently grounds the plot in the geopolitical paranoia of fin-de-siecle Europe, where anarchists have already claimed the lives of Alexander II of Russia, the Austrian Empress, and the prime minister of Spain, and where one tinder threatens to blow the whole chain of alliances sky high ... In short, it’s all great fun ... The research can sound awkward to the modern ear, and Melville’s Irish brogue can tilt to the vaudevillian...Meanwhile, the dead city, in its gorgeous squalor, lives.
PositiveThe Washington Post...even in his most grandiloquent moments, he couldn’t have imagined the star treatment that crime novelist James Ellroy had in store for him ... In the opening pages of Widespread Panic, Freddy has fallen on hard times. For starters, he’s dead ... As literary setups go, that’s fairly venerable, but it falls away in short order, so Ellroy can spend the rest of his book in postwar Los Angeles ... Freddy’s prose may sound like Beowulf on uppers, but he isn’t beyond redemption ... Unfortunately, it’s in these notionally tender moments that Ellroy loosens the vise grip on his prose ... A proud contrarian at 73, Ellroy clearly has little use for contemporary sexual politics or mores, but these Chandleresque echoes jangle all the same, because they work against the mission of his career, which has been to excavate a new pulp myth from the wreckage of the old ... In the world of Widespread Panic, it’s much easier to imagine James Dean and director Nicholas Ray conspiring to film a panty raid, as Ellroy depicts them, than conspiring to make art, as they once actually did in Rebel Without a Cause.
MixedThe Washington PostMorton would prefer to define the queen and her late sister in terms comfortable to Us magazine: temperamental opposites who, despite their differences, came together for a higher purpose. What that purpose was and whether it was worth the sacrifice of these two limited and sometimes desperate individuals is a question that seldom floats into view ... Given the millions more who have watched the Netflix series The Crown, Morton’s narrative arc has the inescapable feeling of rehash. From young Margaret’s stymied affair with a divorced equerry to her wacky evening with Lyndon Johnson to her halfhearted midlife suicide attempt, Crown viewers will likely feel that they’ve heard this song before and that, in the superbly nuanced performances of Vanessa Kirby and Helena Bonham Carter, they’ve gleaned grace notes that a glib compiler like Morton can’t aspire to ... What we need now, in any case, is not another celebrity biographer but an investigative journalist who will pry open the tiara casing around the Firm and expose its workings once and for all.
PositiveThe Washington Post...estimable and empathetic ... Eyman rightly homes in on his inner chiaroscuro, that never-resolving oscillation between dark and light — or, if you like, between Archie Leach and the man he became ... Mealy-mouthed? Or just the resigned sigh of a biographer who can no more get a handle on his subject than his subject could?
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of Books... ambitious, diffuse ... Something of those ancient quarrels also informs Cervini’s book, which is so bent on capturing the whole quilt of gay liberation — from Harry Hay and Bayard Rustin to Barbara Giddings and Evelyn Hooker — that it threatens to lose its most precious thread: Cervini’s unprecedented access to the Kameny archives ... is most alive when delivering us this principled, uningratiating character on his own terms and most provocative when arguing for the bravery of a Queens-born Jew who, in August 1963, stood up to three-and-a-half hours of interrogation from a deeply hostile Texas congressman bent on revoking the Mattachine Society’s license.
Natasha Gregson Wagner
PositiveThe Washington Post... a poignant look at a complicated relationship, a knowledgeable exercise in brand management, and a tantalizing foray into \'What if?\' ... Wagner is frank in discussing her own grief-tinctured coming-of-age struggles ... our author is quick to douse the conspiracy embers that still swirl around her mother’s death ... Give all due credit to the author’s sincerity and loyalty, but don’t ignore the imperatives of image control. And marvel that, four decades after Wood’s death, her brand is still selling, and she herself is still hard at work.
MixedThe Washington PostThe exclamation point signifies both the zeal that film historian Jeanine Basinger brings to her decades-spanning survey and the way in which the genre itself rises, without apology, above the mere declarative ... Basinger has her own tart thoughts...Some are right on point ... But anyone looking for a consistently bracing critical intelligence like Arlene Croce or Molly Haskell will find Basinger’s approach too rangy and scattershot. She has a habit of repeating herself ... Elsewhere, Basinger’s prose lapses into cliche and fan-magazine gushing ... She scants a lot of the Disney musicals, and she virtually ignores Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the TV series that, better than any recent Hollywood product, has revivified the old song-and-dance tradition. Perhaps most seriously, she can’t decide in her summation if the classic musical needs to be emulated or outsmarted ... The real value of The Movie Musical! may just be to call the roll, invoking, yes, titans like Gene Kelly and Vincente Minnelli but also the host of ancillary talents who’ve diverted us through the years. By book’s end, closet musical lovers will have new treasures to carry back into their YouTube caves.
MixedThe Washington PostStaggs is an invaluable film chronicler whose work has always toggled between the engrossing and the overwrought. In this case, his long friendship with Zsa Zsa’s late daughter Francesca seems to have exacerbated the divide, and his fractured time sequences, breathless prose and pugilistic opinions suggest he is either competing with or being absorbed by the Gabors themselves. (Although it’s hard to imagine that even Zsa Zsa would have likened her 1945 confinement at West Hills Sanitarium to \'the sufferings of concentration camp victims,\' as the author does).
PositiveThe Washington Post... touching but diffuse ... the book becomes, by its own inclination, a seriocomic picaresque. Narrative tension may flag at times, but some zesty real-life figure is always rushing forth to distract us: Paul Bowles to get high, Anna Magnani to make lunch, Truman Capote to toss another bon mot on the fire ... Castellani knows his people, though, and he knows this world ... Where Castellani errs, I think, is in transferring so much of his narrative to the invented character of Anja, who matures (improbably) into a legendary movie actress ... By the time her story thread is played out, Leading Men has acquired a few too many leads and a superfluous climax or two ... Castellani recovers in time for a poignant finale.
PositivePhiladelphia Inquirer\"... [a] touching but diffuse novel ... Castellani knows his people, though, and he knows this world ... Where Castellani errs, I think, is in transferring so much of his narrative to the invented character of Anja, who matures (improbably) into a legendary movie actress. By the time her story thread is played out, Leading Men has acquired a few too many leads and a superfluous climax or two. Castellani recovers in time for a poignant finale that puts the focus back where it belongs: on Tenn and Frank, trying to figure out, perhaps too late, what they mean to each other.\
PositiveWashington PostDetective Philip Marlowe must find out who’s putting the squeeze on General Sternwood’s thumb-sucking nympho daughter and, if it’s not too much trouble, locate the general’s vamoosed son-in-law. But by the time Marlowe has negotiated all the molls and gambling addicts and blackmailers and pornographers and crooked cops and trigger-happy gunmen who populate this SoCal wonderland, a first-time reader may well have lost the plot’s thread ... There is no shame in that: Chandler lost it, too. But Big Sleep annotators Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson and Anthony Rizzuto argue persuasively that Chandler’s indifference to story is not just negligence but a deliberate subversion of the classic mystery-puzzle template.
PositiveThe Washington Post...smart, generous chronicle ... Stewart found a way to show the darkness lapping just beneath his nice-guy mannerisms. Did he leave his old friend behind in the process? Eyman makes an equally eloquent case for Fonda’s art: the 'instinctive austerity,' the 'pointillist technique' that weds 'inner stillness' and 'vocal urgency,' the way in which the actor’s own walk 'works against the flow of life around him.'”
RaveThe Washington PostWhy is ‘likable’ the first word that comes to mind upon finishing The Silkworm? Surely, that has something to do with Rowling’s palpable pleasure in her newly chosen genre (the jig may be up with her Robert Galbraith pseudonym, but the bloom is still on her homicidal rose) and even more to do with her detective hero, who, at the risk of offending, is the second husband of every author’s dreams … This is the kind of traditional mystery in which motives and red herrings are dispensed in syringe-like doses from character to character and in which the guilty party stands obligingly in place while being walled around with deduction … Formula, though, has its function. The title of Owen Quine’s final novel is Latin for silkworm, a creature that, we learn in passing, is boiled alive for its silk. Rowling seems to offer this as a metaphor for the agonies of art.
PanThe Washington PostI glimpse, in every Coelho exhortation, a hard lacquer of self-regard and New Age snake oil ... Credit Coelho for giving Mata her belated due and for using the ancient but still sturdy narrative device of the eleventh-hour confession ... Unfortunately, the Mata Hari who emerges from these underrealized pages is not fearless but clueless, not emancipated but incoherent — and, finally, no more plausible or interesting for the Coelho aphorisms that keep tumbling off her scented lips ... You’ll find more agency, sensuality and mystery in just one of Greta Garbo’s spider-lashed gazes.
MixedThe New York TimesIt is, of course, possible to wish him many more years of happy viewing — on whatever platform — while insisting that he be held to the same standards as before. By that measure, the Mr. James of old would surely have thought twice before committing the phrase 'screen magic' to paper and would have dialed back such fanboy gushings as 'The Sopranos is at least three Godfather movies plus The Magnificent Ambersons and Abel Gance’s Napoleon' ... the most affecting moments of Play All come when the author is joined by his wife and daughters, all keeping the old man company as he sifts through his many hours of boxed sets.
RaveThe Washington Post...[a] biting, bruising, achingly sad historical novel...City of Secrets is, by inclination and design, quiet and finite, but its impact is deceptively large because O’Nan (“West of Sunset,” “Emily, Alone”) has something that can’t be taught to a writer — and can indeed be unlearned by talented writers: the gift of authenticity. You’ll rarely catch O’Nan being an author. You’ll simply feel his story rolling past you, in the manner of an old Peugeot.