MixedThe New Republic... we get glimpses of the possibilities of a life in art, and its limits ... The story of the making of The Graduate has been told many times ... Here his most fascinating additions are the granular details of how Nichols’s decisions transformed a meh screenplay into the zeitgeist movie ... Harris is less willing to confront criticisms of the finished film, minimizing the objections of critics like Pauline Kael, who pointed out its slick banality ... sections of the book flag: Harris tells the reader that Nichols struggled with self-loathing but does not manage to show either his decline and his failures or his successes. Little time is spent on either his addiction to crack cocaine or his happy fourth marriage to Diane Sawyer ... Harris never does for Nichols what Nichols claims he had to do to succeed on a project—find a central metaphor. Maybe it’s unfair to say I would have liked a more reflective Nichols than Harris gives us, one who, even late in life, challenged the constraints and fads of the American theater and the limitations of his own character.
RaveThe New Republic... magesterial ... we get glimpses of the possibilities of a life in art, and its limits ... When I finished the Stoppard biography I was filled with sadness: Reading about his late-life discovery of his ancestry makes it impossible not to wonder what could have been, what kind of person (and writer) he would have been if he had known sooner.
Leandra Ruth Zarnow
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books... a tightly focused story ... we should all celebrate the fact that Zarnow rescues her subject from history’s attic, which may be as much as anyone can do. But the book is not perfect. For one thing, Zarnow’s attempt to draw a line between the figure who was \'born yelling\'—as Abzug liked to say about herself—and #MeToo and intersectional politics is misleading. The second-wavers’ biggest bête noire was gender equity, not violence against women, which is one of the few things young women talk about now when they talk about feminism. And yet, Zarnow offers such a rich history in Battling Bella that I will forgive her this and other missteps, like the jejune way she often describes things ... The book is a conventional academic volume, arranged along chronological lines ... Zarnow’s flattening out of the second wave’s complications and contentions...makes her book less rich than it could have been ... But Zarnow is defter when she focuses on what Abzug did rather than what she said. And she is right to argue that Abzug’s personal style—storming and shouting in a way that largely doesn’t happen today—helped her legislative aims ... Battling Bella is weak on Abzug’s private life—psychological insight is not Zarnow’s forte nor this volume’s purview ... but ... Perhaps this book will make it harder to forget her.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... eschews clichés for a more nuanced story ... Overall, Mr. Wilson’s book shows how one complicated, contradictory, morally ambiguous man struggled to improve himself while being single-mindedly determined to give delight to millions. It is a life for our times, and the biography Barnum deserves.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalPlaying to the Gods argues that the Duse-Bernhardt rivalry, dragging on for years, was more than just personal, it was crucial to the art of modern acting ... this book is better read as biography (the lives practically tell themselves) than as cultural history ... I wish Mr. Rader had explained why 19th-century audiences had such an appetite for female anguish. Instead, he ticks off the hardships the women experienced to get to their virtuosic portrayals of agony ... For students of #MeToo, there’s plenty to think about in this book. Many of the aristocratic cads these actresses took up with sound like certain notorious Hollywood executives. Both women faced unwanted pregnancies alone ... Mr. Rader...has done his research and he clearly has sympathy for his leading ladies. But in a dual biography, each moment has to illuminate the whole. Too often, here, the storytelling is cramped or flattened or sounds like a screenplay, which in fact, is how he originally conceived it.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksWomen & Power’s subtitle is a little misleading. Although parts of the book are prescriptive, it is manifestly not a manifesto. It largely refrains from telling you how to break eggs to make a feminist omelet … I admire how Beard refuses to uncomplicate the past, present, and future of gender equality. She cautions the reader to be wary of thinking ‘lazily,’ and of communicating in sound bites. The importance of keeping things complicated is inestimable … My biggest problem, though, is with the solutions Beard offers for the continued gender equality that we all face. She expresses impatience with gradualism but she also wants to remind her readers/listeners how far they (we) have come … We will all be dead before we get to where we ought to be. Nonetheless, I applaud her for being our heroine.
Amos Oz, Trans. by Nicholas de Lange
PositiveThe Boston Globe\"The Israeli writer Amos Oz has said about his work that he is \'normally\' in \'partial disagreement\' with himself. At times Judas, an erudite defense of the apostle whose name has become a synonym for traitor, a polemic about the fate of Israel, and a tender coming-of-age story seems weighed down with this idea ... But Oz makes his shy hero more than a mouthpiece in a novel of ideas. He is a character capable of change ... wise, brooding, and sometimes contrarian book.\
PositiveThe Boston Globe[Mischling] works, as much as possible, which is to say partly ... Konar is sensitive to the sleights of hand the twins adapt to survive. They sometimes caper or cavort. And yet the book does not seem gimmicky or glib ... That Stasha can express that possibility feels hopeful and extraordinary. And that’s what bothers me. It’s not really Konar’s fault, per se. It’s just I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to read a happy ending (even a small, partial one) in a novel about the Holocaust when, in the balance of history, so many were slaughtered.
PanThe Boston Globe[Bolick] is writing out of nostalgia. She genuinely wishes she had been born in an earlier era, when being single would make her an outlaw. That way she could truly be a victim, not just play one inside her own head. It is a testament to Bolick that despite her flawed argument, Spinster can be an engaging read ... Nearly 20 years ago, the writer Vivian Gornick made the startling observation that romantic love 'can no longer act as an organizing principle.' Gornick was arguing that feminism had made it impossible for romantic love to define a story. Bolick may have achieved romantic bliss, but she never achieves the literary gravitas that Gornick manages in one sentence.
PositiveThe Boston Globe...in a way, The Argonauts is a book about how love changes the way we name things. It is the first book I have read that explains to me as a reader and a human being what it is like to fall in love with someone driven to transform their own gender. Turns out, it’s like falling in love with anyone — surprising and sometimes scary ... Nelson’s account of her falling is so natural and heartbreaking that I forgive the occasionally whiff of the seminar room.
MixedThe New York Times[S]ometimes The Only Street in Paris seems less driven by flâneuring than by another French specialty: the morality tale. This one’s purpose is to explain how people from different backgrounds can (within limits) transcend their pasts and become friends. As Ms. Sciolino puts it, life on the Rue des Martyrs first just 'involved transactions' but then 'extended to experiences shared.' That may sound corny. But Ms. Sciolino...makes the transformation touching by connecting it to her roots.
PanThe Boston GlobeThese conclusions might be consoling to Klebold, who in her '20/20’' interview had trouble using the word 'killed' to describe what her son did (and in the book she avoids details of the attack). They might even be consoling to the victims. But she offers little support that seems persuasive.