For practitioners of what used to be called the lively arts, Life Isn’t Everything, an oral biography of Mike Nichols, is manna from heaven, its brilliantly orchestrated polyphony bringing him, his work, and his world to vivid life ... It is properly celebratory and deliciously filled with his bons mots, but from its opening pages, it shirks none of the complexity of the man, acknowledging the darkness so close to the shining surface ... Life Isn’t Everything is no whitewash job ... Again and again, it returns to the question of identity. Under the infinitely polished surface, complex things seem to be lurking ... The breadth of the witnesses is remarkable, as are their candor and perceptiveness.
Carter and Kashner have skillfully handled things ... They have drawn on 150 respondents, friendly and mostly jovial, along with a good many quotations from Nichols himself ... Altogether, the pages about The Graduate constitute some of the best writing about Hollywood and could make, by themselves, a devastating satire.
...a captivating oral history of the late director Mike Nichols ... The occasional criticism of Nichols helps make believable the unbelievably high praise that permeates Life Isn’t Everything. While oral history doesn’t offer the breadth and depth of biography, as writers Ash Carter and Sam Kashner acknowledge, they have assembled a collection of voices that explain why Mike Nichols soared as an artist and as a friend.
Legendary director Mike Nichols...refused to write his memoirs, but this scintillating oral history fills the gap splendidly, with wry and heartfelt commentary by '150 of his closest friends,' ... what comes through most forcefully is Nichols’ ability to get the most out of his actors. And, of course, his unparalleled ability to tell a story, punctuated always by self-deprecating wit ... An exquisite oral history that will leave readers convinced that they, too, were among Nichols’ closest friends.
...a flawed but fascinating oral history that covers the eight decades of Nichols’s extraordinary life and career ... Life Isn't Everything is at its best when Nichols’s theater and film colleagues share production memories ...The luminaries Carter and Kashner have brought together are an eclectic bunch, with the result being a sort of grand dinner party where conversation is all about the life and times of the man they all admired ... The one notable omission is Elaine May, who not only was Nichols’s greatest stage collaborator, but also scripted a few of his later films. For whatever reason May is not here (and that goes unexplained), her absence is a glaring hole ... There is only scant mention of Nichols’s three previous marriages and barely any acknowledgement of his three children with wives numbers two and three ... A great talent deserves a great biography. That’s not this book. But for anyone looking to understand Mike Nichols, his working methods, and impact on American culture, Life Isn’t Everything is a good place to start.
... a fascinating oral history ... Messrs. Carter and Kashner have intelligently chosen to concentrate on the career rather than the life, and on Nichols’s working methods and artistic techniques. Prurient readers in search of gossip will be disappointed ... The real interest of this book lies in two areas: Nichols’s working style, in which he displayed a remarkable rapport with performers, and his cultural importance, which is real and profound.
... a marvelous oral biography with recollections from actors, filmmakers, and friends ... As the thoughts recorded here are clearly from close friends, such as Meryl Streep, Wallace Shawn, Buck Henry, and Tony Walton, there is nary a negative word to be found. Yet many stories of Nichols’s personal life, his midcareer depression, and his internal struggles as an artist provide a well-rounded sense of a man who excelled in his field and was truly loved by those around him ... A wonderful biography of a unique and memorable man, and a worthy addition to all libraries.
... there is a long section about the Nichols-and-May years that launched his career, there is no contribution from Elaine May. And that the book skids over his three previous marriages and his three children, focusing instead on his fourth marriage, to Diane Sawyer. And that there is no mention of what a biography of Richard Avedon describes as Nichols’ secret 10-year affair with the photographer ... Stipulate all those omissions, and you still get a book you can’t put down. Okay, I skipped over the long Nichols-and-May section that will be catnip to some oldsters, but everything else grabbed me hard. Just for the account of an outsider who felt like an alien no matter how successful he became. Just for the sense that everything he had could be taken away in an instant. I suspect I’m not alone in feeling that no matter how much I achieve, I’m never quite enough, which is why I think you’ll read this book non-stop. Yes, the show biz stories are great. But the pathology is the hook ... By the end of this book, you won’t envy him. But you will understand him. And you’ll have some fresh compassion for the Nichols in you.
...[a] candid, intimate portrayal ... Nichols’ attitudes about money, fame, art, and marriage all emerge from the contributors’ wide-ranging recollections ... A warmhearted, revelatory composite portrait.