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Snake Pit
Snake Pit
by Mary Jane Ward
Edition: Hardcover
62 used & new from $4.85

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful; engrossing; a fine literary achievement., December 14, 2014
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This review is from: Snake Pit (Hardcover)
I found this novel beautifully written and engrossing to the last word. Why is it out of print? I hope it experiences rediscovery, and a revival. The author boldly chronicles the experience of her heroine, Virginia Cunningham, a gravely ill woman in a mental hospital, from the point of view of that woman, as she struggles with the violent side effects of shock treatment on her memory and her capacity to make sense of where she is and what is happening to her and why. The writing is uncompromisingly profound throughout. The effect ultimately is a triumph for the author in revealing a Hellish world in which institutional treatments for insanity come across as brutal and sadistic, and enough to drive any sane person crazy. Hunger, extreme cold, poor hygiene, neglect, bullying by other patients, forced feeding, forced baths, forced binding of patients and of course shock treatments ---- all this is presented in gruesome detail. What the heroine endures and suffers is terrifying. ----- Sources indicate that when the book was published, Ward denied that it was based on personal experience. But apparently it was indeed based on her own experience, and we are told that "The Snake Pit" played a role in getting reforms to mental health care in America. ------ I'm in awe of the novel's power. I'm in awe of the sustained experiment of telling it all from Virginia's point of view, no matter how disoriented or confused or delusional Virginia becomes. And I left the novel comforted by the author's achievement. I do hope this book will be republished and recirculated. (I love the movie based on it, but that is another story altogether.)
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2014 9:47 PM PST


King Of The Gypsies
King Of The Gypsies
DVD
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent film with unforgettable performances., December 9, 2014
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This is a magnificent film --- brilliantly directed by Frank Pierson, with an unbelievably great cast, including Eric Roberts in his first film role, Susan Sarandon as his unforgettable mother, a young and beautiful Brooke Shields, Annette O'Toole, the ever delightful Annie Potts, the great Judd Hirsch, the great Sterling Hayden and the great Shelley Winters. Over the years, I've seen it any number of times, marveling at the performances, and the exotic and often bizarre world it reveals --- that of the urban gypsies in America in the mid 1970's. Just recently I hunted down and found Peter Maas' non-fiction book of the same name, which inspired the film, and it does seem that the film is faithful to the book. But the film goes way beyond a glimpse into the lives of the gypsies. It is beautiful and engrossing and brilliantly done, and can be valued on its own as a gem --- regardless of whether one is interested in its historical dimensions. If you love movies, don't miss this one. If you love virtuoso performances, enjoy the many in this story. The cinematography is dazzling; and the writing superb. Again, magnificent.


King of the Gypsies
King of the Gypsies
by Peter Maas
Edition: Paperback
39 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Well written account of life among the gypsies in America in 1976, December 9, 2014
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This review is from: King of the Gypsies (Paperback)
I enjoyed this brief and concise non fiction book about Steve Bene, grandson of the "The King of the Gypsies," for the information it provided about Steve, his family, and the gypsies historically, and their life in America at the time of publication, 1976. The movie based on this book, "King of the Gypsies" with Eric Roberts and Susan Sarandon (among other great actors and actresses) is a favorite of mine and I must have seen it five times over the years. I regard it as a great film. It was my last viewing of the film that prompted me to seek out the book. I'll be looking for more information on the history of the gypsies in America. Peter Maas was one fine writer.


Playing from Memory
Playing from Memory
by David Milofsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.95
30 used & new from $5.47

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine and memorable novel, September 1, 2014
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This review is from: Playing from Memory (Paperback)
I read this novel in 1980, when it was published. And I've never forgotten it. After all these years, I still think of scenes from it --- from the lives of Ben, the musician father, stricken with MS, and his wife, Dory, and their children. I decided to hunt the novel down, see if there were copies still around --- and how delighted I was to be able to order a used hardcover here on Amazon, and a new paperback. I'm going to read the book all over again. I recommend this book to anyone for its sensitive writing and moving story. It left me with such a vivid picture of Ben and his family. The novel has had a warm place in my heart for almost thirty five years. I just ordered another one of the author's books. Looking forward to it.


The Young Lions
The Young Lions
DVD ~ Marlon Brando
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Price: $29.26
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brando's performance makes the film worth it., August 13, 2014
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This review is from: The Young Lions (DVD)
The film is worth watching for Marlon Brando. He gives an absolutely remarkable performance as the deeply conflicted Christian Diestl, a German soldier who comes to be horrified by the war in which he is participating. And I found his German accent flawless. As a picture of war, I feel the film is limited and dated. It cannot compare to films of later decades, in my estimation, films such as "Apocalypse Now" or "Enemy at the Gates," at depicting the horrors of war; and even compared to other popular yet serious movies of the same period, such as "On the Waterfront," it lacks both the sophistication and the raw power. However "The Young Lions" is a film of noble ambitions. And it is never a boring film to watch. Dean Martin and Montgomery Clift are appealing. So is the rest of the cast. ----- Irwin Shaw, author of the famous novel, did not approve of Brando's take on the role and said so publicly to Brando. And as much as I deeply respect Shaw as the novelist, the original creator of the character, I have to affirm that what Brando did do with this role is quietly magnificent. (It seems to me the director and screen writer must have been behind the shaping of the character of Diestl. But Shaw's public argument was with Brando.) Did the movie do justice to the novel on other levels? I don't know because I have not yet finished the novel. Again, I recommend the movie for Brando's performance. I wonder if some one will attempt a remake of this film in years to come. Irwin Shaw was a mightily respected writer in his time, and he was successful with mass audiences right up until his death. College kids of my age (early 60's) may remember his short stories, including "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" which was in my English textbook. He wrote for The New Yorker for years. I'm reading Shaw again with pleasure.


Irwin Shaw
Irwin Shaw
by Michael Shnayerson
Edition: Hardcover
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written story of author Irwin Shaw's rich and amazing life., August 13, 2014
This review is from: Irwin Shaw (Hardcover)
Irwin Shaw, author of numerous short stories, and a sting of successful novels, including "The Young Lions" lived an amazing and exciting life. I first encountered Shaw when I was college. His story, "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" was included in our English class textbooks and I never forgot it. And now over fifty years later, I'm reading Shaw's stories for pleasure, insight and inspiration, and I'm also tackling his great post WWII novel, "The Young Lions." I am finding this immensely readable and wonderfully detailed biography of Shaw very helpful in providing a picture of a complex and remarkable author, considered both literary and popular, whose life brought him into contact with the other major writers of his time. Shaw came to success early as a playwright in New York, became a successful short story writer for The New Yorker, went on to write scripts in Hollywood, experienced the Second World War first hand and offered his own great novel based on it, and lived a glamorous and productive existence right up to the time of his death. His 1969 novel, "Rich Man, Poor Man," became a hugely successful television miniseries in 1976. This biography gives a vivid and fascinating picture of Shaw's world. I'm grateful that Michael Shnayerson wrote this book and wrote it so well. It's for me an informative and inspiring document. And I think the book might be of great interest to many authors, as well as fans of Shaw's work, and students of American literature, especially those interested in the literary giants of the Twentieth Century, and the few who attained popular success.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2014 8:47 PM PDT


The Musketeers, Season 1
The Musketeers, Season 1
DVD
Price: $12.99

82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate entertainment, beautifully done, and great fun., July 27, 2014
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Marvelous entertainment on every level. We're in a new golden age of television now, especially for fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and historical drama. And this show with its great production values and seductive cast, is outstanding for the more playful and fun approach it takes to historical romance. It's light, fast paced, and beautifully done. Of course the older Musketeers movies always delivered comedy as well as action, but this version is just serious enough and intelligent enough to make the wit and humor all the more appealing. The violence and inevitable cruelty of the period is never overdone, and moments of triumph often depend not on brutality but on cleverness. The villains or antagonists --- Milady de Winter and Cardinal Richelieu --- are quite complex and truly interesting characters, and that adds considerable depth to the whole offering. I am delighted that a second season is in the works. --- For some one who grew up in the forties and fifties as I did, reveling in Errol Flynn movies like "Captain Blood," "Robin Hood," or "The Sea Hawk," this is a great treat. It's entirely safe for an audience that might find the gore of "Game of Thrones" too much, and the sadism of "The Borgias" simply overwhelming. "The Musketeers" is not striving to be as serious as those and other shows, yet at the same time the sets, costumes, and the cinematography are superb, the writing is consistently excellent, and the use of historical figures is extremely well done. Every episode is profoundly emotionally satisfying. Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (28) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2014 7:53 AM PST


The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London
by Judith Flanders
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.19
51 used & new from $15.08

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource for the lover of Dickens, and for the historical novelist., July 27, 2014
This is a treasure trove of information on London in the time of Dickens --- filled with marvelous details about all aspects of life, beautifully documented, and well written throughout. Having loved Dickens all my life, finding in him the greatest teacher when it comes to fiction writing, I am beyond delighted with this volume. Any and all students of 19th century English literature will find this helpful, however. And for historical novelists, books like this are pure gold. Highly recommended. Enjoyable too. Looking into the author's other titles.


Whisperers: The Secret History of the Spirit World
Whisperers: The Secret History of the Spirit World
by J. H. Brennan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.31
66 used & new from $2.37

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely intelligent and well written account of "spirit contact" throughout the ages., June 8, 2014
Excellent book. Highly readable. Entertaining. What this book offers is not a grand theory of spirits and spirit contact so much as a secular overview of the evidence for humankind's involvement with the "spirit world" since its earliest beginnings through the present. Myself, I do not subscribe to any comprehensive theory as to whether spirits are real, or what their nature and goals might be, etc. But I deeply value books like this which draw together so much evidence with regard to spirit contact in all ages and explain and reflect on the evidence in simple and often elegant terms. The book is very well researched and very well documented and contains a lot of interesting references for further study in the field. I felt Brennan's criticism of the "skeptics" (those who discount the paranormal out of hand) were sound. The last few chapters of the book I found particularly intelligence and persuasive. But overall, it is an extremely ambitious and satisfying study. Highly recommended.


Mary Renault: A Biography
Mary Renault: A Biography
by David Sweetman
Edition: Hardcover
69 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent eloquent and readable biography of a great novelist., May 24, 2014
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I'm quite swept up in this very well written biography of Mary Renault --- author of "The Last of the Wine," and "The Persian Boy," two books which pervasively influenced my own life as a writer. I commend the author for his thoroughness, and his restrained and polite writing, for his research and for giving me so much basic information here about Renault --- about her early life, her crucial social decisions, her commitment to write, and her career experiences. ------ It positively broke my heart to read here that the editor/publisher made Mary Renault cut huge portions of "The Last of the Wine." Renault's pain over this is so understandable. What I wouldn't give for a restored version of the novel with all the edits put back. --- And thank heaven, Renault did not take the advice of anyone who urged her not to write anymore historical novels!!!! ----- I would have welcomed a lot more in depth discussion of her plots and characters but that is not really the responsibility of the biographer of a novelist and can be found elsewhere. I'm really enjoying this book. And I recommend it to others. --- The more I read, I wonder if Renault's life wouldn't make an excellent motion picture or TV film. She broke ground in an age when people were afraid to be gay, let alone publish "gay" books. She was principled and courageous --- and wrote beautiful prose always. Her achievements and her immense influence are worth remembering. --- And her ability to tell the story of Alexander the Great through the eyes of his gay lover is just remarkable. As to why her novels have not been made into films I do not know. Surely this is the time for "The Persian Boy." What a great quality cable series it would make, if not a big time motion picture. I recommend this book to all Renault fans ---- and to struggling writers who are inspired as I am by the lives and example of writers who went before us. Renault is a great writer, and at the moment is a bit neglected. But I trust that will change in time. Her accomplishments are too beautiful, too profound, too entertaining, and too dazzling on all levels for her not to be rediscovered over and over again.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 24, 2014 6:58 PM PDT


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