PositiveOpen Letters ReviewObserving decline and death seem to be the book’s raison d’etre...Holleran has lost none of his acute, penetrating vision ... My first reading of The Kingdom of Sand left me frustrated and sad. Frustrated because I had hoped that after 16 years Holleran had somehow transcended the world of his three previous novels and ceased to rehearse his favorite obsessions...But rereading—this time looking at the trees, not the forest—I had to own up to my sensitivity to the author’s decline and mortality...From a second read, I once again fell in love with his forthright prose, unfailingly honest but frequently touching and tender—and frequently razor-sharp.
RaveOpen Letters Review... full of joy, humor, and vivid details of a figure that, like Puccini’s Tosca, lived for art ... There is indeed anger, self-pity, and tears: a suicide attempt, a battle against alcoholism, unfaithful lovers, homophobia, and the ravages of AIDS. But buoyancy keeps bubbling amid the gloom, and we end up responding with admiration—if not for every artistic move he has made, then for the man himself ... A wealth of photographs augment Fierstein’s career as a keen-eyed and compassionate witness to five decades of social and theatrical upheaval. We might regret that the cutting edge of his early work slowly dulled to a butter knife—and a man donning a dress just to entertain seems increasingly discomfiting in an age of increasing gender awareness. But Fierstein chose the path of pleasing a wide audience—and in so doing extended his message of diversity and empathy.
PositiveOpen Letters Review... in this elegant, finely detailed—but often frustrating—book, he offers a life filled with incident, accomplishment, memorable friends, few regrets—and lots of sex, described with admirable directness ... in this elegant, finely detailed—but often frustrating—book, he offers a life filled with incident, accomplishment, memorable friends, few regrets—and lots of sex, described with admirable directness ... In telling his story, Ivory opts to hop and skip through incidents, locations, and films, creating a loose structure that often challenges coherence. There are some chapters that are head scratchers in their irrelevance. You wonder how much of the book was compiled from journal entries, diaries, and conversations, a speculation given weight by the unusual editorship credited to the estimable novelist Peter Cameron ... But jerry-rigged or not, the book offers an irresistible voice narrating travels to far-flung destinations and encounters with a merry cavalcade of unlikely folk ... Ivory ends the story of his rich, enviable life with an anecdote from his high school years that embraces his love of movies, an obsession with an obscure MGM musical actress, and his own thirst for applause. In doing so he illuminates his book’s title. Suddenly, what seemed to me a perplexing choice—unimaginative and ordinary—now was just right, perfect in fact, and well worth readers taking the journey to find out for themselves.
RaveOpen Letters Review... absorbing ... That race—starting from that day in 1982 to May 2, 1984, when their creation opened on Broadway for 604 performances, winning its own Pultizer along the way—is thoroughly and entertainingly chronicled in Lapine’s book. Through interviews with dozens of its creative team—from producers and designers to actors and stagehands—he presents an invaluable historical document, remarkable in its detail considering the lapse in time of nearly four decades ... Backstage sagas are always irresistible to theater fans, and this one had more than its share of twists and turns ... Lapine is an easygoing, self-effacing, candid narrator, aware that as he went through the responsibilities of both librettist and director he was treated with skepticism by the cast for his off-Broadway roots and lack of experience ... As a bonus, the oversized tome is handsomely designed, chock full of color and black-and-white photos, designers’ sketches, Sondheim’s and Lapine’s notes, and even samples of Seurat’s other work.
MixedThe Open Letters ReviewStern goes to great lengths to chronicle Nina’s troubled life (she is still alive); her multiple marriages and her futile search for a satisfying career are dealt with by Stern with unnecessary harshness ... Stern, a writer best known for her magazine journalism, writes with gusto (if occasionally overeager banter) and an admirable fondness for her subject, although telling his story in the present tense throughout often seems too informal. But her research is exhaustive and her command of detail impressive ... Skyhorse has done the book no favors. The finished copy is drab, the paper stock feels substandard, the typeface less elegant, and worst of all, a book representing an artist of supreme style and limitless exuberance reflects little of that legacy. Shockingly, there is but a single representation of Hirschfeld’s later great work in the photo well ... Even the book cover is sadly dour, given the subject’s signature style, and markedly different from that of the elegant advance copy ... Whatever the story behind the book, Hirschfeld and Stern deserve better.
RaveOpen Letters Review... an excellent introduction by Amy Gentry ... At the center of Good Behaviour is Aroon St. Charles, 57 at the book’s start (in a scene that is one of most audacious openings I can recall), who narrates her life story with a singular lack of sentiment but a great deal of self-delusion, a trait that makes her alternately exasperating, sympathetic, hateful and endearing ... While it may appear that there is little to like or admire among the book’s characters—including Richard, Hubert’s intimate friend, with whom Aroon falls hopelessly and eternally in love, against all odds—Keane supplies a cast of supporting players who give us hope for humanity ... a minor classic as touching as it is darkly comic. Keane’s writing is lapidary and sensual. And achingly human ... Certain extended scenes are unforgettable ... Language sings on almost every page ... Good Behaviour and its reissue should by all rights give Keane a renaissance of the kind enjoyed by Barbara Pym. Wicked humor and deeply felt characters are the hallmarks of both women—as are their respective claims to be among 20th-century literature’s minor novelists most worthy of permanent attention.
RaveThe Open Letters ReviewHarris is an ideal biographer...He’s expert at the inner workings of both theater and film, and his accounts of all of the major works offer a perfect balance of technical matters and insider tidbits, gleaned from an impressive roster of interviews ... Harris is clearly a fan, but not blind to his flaws ... Harris is skillful at evaluating and interpreting the critical consensus on the director’s midcareer oeuvre m... The book is long, but I would happily have had more of it. In many ways it’s a party with a fabulous guest list.
RaveThe Open Letters Review... in this buoyant fictional biography [Strauss] has provided a welcome reminder that Ball was far more than an adept comic famous for pulling faces and surreal physical stunts ... energetically quirky and entertaining ... sensitive writing ... He bores deeply and with present-tense energy into the minds and spirits of both characters ... Strauss also manages to widen his lens to a full-blown portrait of the country’s mid-century mores and prejudices ... an impressive mixture of fact and guesswork and pure imagination ... against all odds deeply satisfying.