Recommended Reading                                 

Title: Leonard: My Fift-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man

Author: William Shatner & David Fisher

 

Review:

In the now iconic original Star Trek series, Mr. Spock’s highly analytical temperament complemented Captain Kirk’s often passionate and physical character. Now it’s the captain’s turn to reflect on a long friendship.

 

This year marks the 50th year since the Star Trek franchise’s birth and the crew of the Enterprise continue to go where no man has gone before. It’s hard to believe an behemoth entertainment franchise comprising five TV series, 12 feature films, numerous comics and novels, an animated series, fanzines, sprawling Sci-Fi conventions, and a worldwide base of devoted fans began with an underfunded if ambitious TV series that ran for only three seasons (1966 to 1969) before being cancelled by the network for its poor profitability. Though the fabled starship has had many actors at its helm, the original portrayals of Kirk and Spock remain iconic. Shatner who celebrates his 85th birthday next March, revisits his much-lauded co-star in a memoir spanning their half-century friendship. From Nimoy’s early years in Los Angeles scrounging for bit roles in TV to the late actor’s charitable support of Zachary Quinto in his 2009 reprisal of the role of Spock, Shatner describes his friend as a serious artist who constantly worked to hone and shape his craft. Fans will devour back stage anecdotes on the making of the series and its posthumous surge in popularity, fuelled by cable TV. Throughout the work, Shatner sneaks readers behind the unemotional Vulcan character played so charismatically by Nimoy to reveal a fuller picture of the man, poet, photographer, devoted stage actor and recovering alcoholic, who was his great friend.

 

A fond and warm remembering of Leonard Nimoy by one who knew him across the years like none other. 288pp, published by Dunne/St. Martin's, ISBN: 978-1-250-08331-9

Title: Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Thia: A Life in Music

Author: David Stewart

 

Reviews:

A rock star who realizes he’s a very, very lucky man shares the story of how he made his own luck.

Most music fans think of Stewart as the lesser partner in Eurythmics, a duo that owed much of its success to the fabulous voice, sex-infused allure, and songs of Annie Lennox. Yet it was Stewart’s relaxed approach that brought out the best from Lennox, as he producer and managed their act in addition providing their backing music. The memoir’s most engaging moments come when Stewart explores the complex relationship he continues to enjoy with the woman he calls “my dearest friend and closest collaborator,” though what began as a love-at-first-sight romantic relationship was winding down even as the two transitioned from the Tourists into the Eurythmics. Just as the contrast between the impetuous Stewart and the more reserved Lennox caused personal tension, their success proceeded from equally disparate themes: “We wanted to create the feeling of beauty and sadness together, like in a garden when the roses have just peaked and are turning blood red, a kind of sweet decay.” Stewart’s approach also found success outside the Eurythmics, with Tom Petty’s big hit “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” a song Stewart started after falling into bed with Stevie Nicks. His creative and social milieu eventually included assorted Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jack Nicholson, and Microsoft’s Paul Allen.

 

Amid the current torrent of musician memoirs, Stewart book holds more interest than most, though he freely admits he isn’t terribly reflective and rarely dips deeper than surface anecdotes. 336pp, published by NAL/Berkley, ISBN: 978-0-451-47768-2

 

Title: The Secret Life Of The American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built

Author: Jack Viertel

 

Review:

From the opening overture to final curtain, this is a close insider’s perspective on how contemporary musicals work.

Screenwriter, drama critic, senior vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters on Broadway and artistic director of City Center’s Encores! revivals, Viertel provides an authoritative voice on Broadway history, culture and creative productions. He adores musicals, and is adamant they deserve the same level of analysis that academics focus on other genres. That’s the focus and passion he brings to his class at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, forensically dissecting four musicals from Broadway’s golden age including 1943’s icon Oklahoma! And 1975’s enduring smash hit A Chorus Line. Besides the four iconic shows, Gypsy, Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, and South Pacific, Viertel adds others, The Music Man, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Fiddler on the Roof, The Producers (one of our favourites), West Side Story, Carousel, and The King and I. He also deconstructs more contemporary productions of, The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and the current hip-hop musical Hamilton. Viertel‘s mastery of his subject matter is enlivened by his equally engaging joyous enthusiasm. Along the way, readers are walked through discerning insights on theatrical structure: the “I want” song that maps out the protagonist’s hopes, the “conditional love song” that kick starts romance, energetic interludes known as “the noise,” subplots, penultimate scenes, star turns, and the inevitable resolution.

 

Viertel’s is an enlightening trip behind the scenes for lovers of musicals. 336pp, published by Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN: 978-0-374-25692

Title: Living On Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995, 

Author: Iris Murdoch edited by Avril Horner and Anne Rowe

 

Review:

An intimate glimpse of the private thoughts of a prolific British novelist and philosopher.

For hours each day, Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) sat at her roll-top desk writing letters by hand, often with a Montblanc fountain pen to friends, lovers, editors, students, and even strangers who asked about her work. From a treasure trove of 5,000 letters, Horner and Rowe have judiciously selected more than 760 that represent Murdoch’s underlying passions and interests, her reflections on her career, and her views on a wide range of topics embracing politics, philosophy, religion, and culture. Their deep knowledge of Murdoch’s life and work has enabled the editors to produce a masterful yet eminently readable, and informative book that places the writer’s vibrant, intense, and occasionally amusing correspondence in context. Murdoch’s much publicised love life forms one important stream. Her love life with men and women was as complicated as her literary reputation as “her idiosyncratic brand of mystical realism” and moral philosophy garnered early praise but later fell out of fashion when “doubts about her philosophy fuelled doubts about her novels.”

 

An impressively edited, sharply revealing life in letters of a remarkable author and woman. 688pp, published by Princeton Univ, ISBN: 978-0-691-17056-5

Title: Loving Amy: A Mother's Story

Author: Janis Winehouse

 

Review:

Winehouse’s candid memoir of life with her award-winning, bestselling, hugely talented, and desperately troubled daughter, Amy Winehouse (1983-2011).

Fans of the star and her music will pounce on this book up and plunge into its compulsively compelling narrative detailing the musician’s stratospheric success, publicly played-out drug and alcohol addictions, culminating in her untimely death at just 27. This is a story already told from Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse’s perspective and in the acclaimed documentary about her, Amy (2015). In the epilogue, the author makes clear that one of the reasons for writing this book, despite Amy asking her not to write such a book, was a desire to recount the truth. While it’s questionable if this biography is the whole truth, what this book does provide is the author’s experience of life with her daughter as she grew up. The author offers some delightful, touching and illuminating moments from her daughter’s, but it is hard not to wonder whose record is being set straight.

 

Although this book may help others dealing with the tragedy of addiction, readers may question whether it truly contributes to the legacy of Amy Winehouse herself. 304pp, published by Dunne/St. Martin's, ISBN: 978-1-250-07849-0

Title: Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge

Author: Radical Poet and  Terese Svoboda

 

Review:

A passionate defender of society’s poor and oppressed receives a long-overdue full-length biography.

Poet, essayist, and editor Lola Ridge (1873-1941), was born in Ireland, raised in New Zealand, and educated in Australia. Ridge made her mark in the United States in 1907, when she became part of San Francisco and later New York’s blossoming arts scene, where she soon emerged as a major literary figure. Svoboda revives Ridge’s life in minute, and occasionally obsessive. Lack of access to archival sources has prompted Svoboda to substitute speculation about Ridge’s motivations and assumptions: “perhaps,” “could have,” and “might have” seem to recur with annoying frequency in an attempt to provide. More successful are the author’s snapshot biographies of Ridge’s friends Marianne Moore, novelists Evelyn Scott and Kay Boyle, activists Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman; Harold Loeb, who appointed Ridge as American editor of Broom his literary magazine; together with Jean Toomer, Robert McAlmon, Matthew Josephson amongst others. Anorexic, living in self-imposed poverty, uncompromising, and strong-willed, Ridge merged the political and the literary as she helped shape America’s modernist aesthetics.

 

A revealing, although at times obsessively detailed portrait of a radical poet and activist. 648pp, published by Schaffner Press, ISBN: 978-1-936182-96-1

 

Title: Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies

Author: Owen Gleiberman

 

Review:

A passionate defender of society’s poor and oppressed receives a long-overdue full-length biography.

Poet, essayist, and editor Lola Ridge (1873-1941), was born in Ireland, raised in New Zealand, and educated in Australia. Ridge made her mark in the United States in 1907, when she became part of San Francisco and later New York’s blossoming arts scene, where she soon emerged as a major literary figure. Svoboda revives Ridge’s life in minute, and occasionally obsessive. Lack of access to archival sources has prompted Svoboda to substitute speculation about Ridge’s motivations and assumptions: “perhaps,” “could have,” and “might have” seem to recur with annoying frequency in an attempt to provide. More successful are the author’s snapshot biographies of Ridge’s friends Marianne Moore, novelists Evelyn Scott and Kay Boyle, activists Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman; Harold Loeb, who appointed Ridge as American editor of Broom his literary magazine; together with Jean Toomer, Robert McAlmon, Matthew Josephson amongst others. Anorexic, living in self-imposed poverty, uncompromising, and strong-willed, Ridge merged the political and the literary as she helped shape America’s modernist aesthetics.

 

A revealing, although at times obsessively detailed portrait of a radical poet and activist. 648pp, published by Schaffner Press, ISBN: 978-1-936182-96-1

 

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