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Me and Orson Welles: A Novel Hardcover – October 1, 2003
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
"This is the story of one week in my life. I was seventeen. It was the week I slept in Orson Welles's pajamas. It was the week I fell in love. It was the week I fell out of love." Thus does the precocious protagonist of Kaplow's first adult novel summarize his adventures as a bit-part player in the landmark 1937 Mercury Theater production of Julius Caesar that helped catapult the 22-year-old Welles to the top of the entertainment world. Kaplow wastes no time setting up his unlikely scenario; after an impromptu sidewalk audition, Richard Samuels, a New Jersey high school student, lands the part of Lucius, a minor character. The conceit forms a nice counterpoint to the coming-of-age material, as Kaplow alternates scenes about Samuels's high school and home life with a series of rehearsal passages that bring the brilliant but mercurial Welles to life. Samuels falls in love more than once: first with fellow high school actress Caroline, then with a lovely, flighty production assistant named Sonja who is also involved with Welles, and finally with Gretta, an aspiring writer. The climax features a colorful showdown between Samuels and Welles after the boy confronts the married Welles about his affair with Sonja. Kaplow doesn't quite capture the dark side of the enigmatic Welles, but his bright, enthusiastic writing about Samuels's introduction to the world of high-stakes theater makes this an entertaining offering.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-In November, 1937, Richard Samuels, 17, a high school senior drifting relatively painlessly through school and relationships, feels there might be more to life. The New Jerseyite spends weekends wandering in Manhattan looking for a connection, preferably theatrical, that would excite him. He happens upon the yet to open Mercury Theatre and is noticed by its mercurial muse, Orson Welles. He is given a small part in Julius Caesar, which is ultimately a grand success, and spends a week in a fantastic whirl as part of the troupe. The following few days are exciting, frustrating, and, finally, both triumphant and devastating to the would-be thespian. Kaplow brings the New York of the late 1930s vividly to life, especially the theatrical world. The novel is fast paced and very funny, and the brilliant but unpredictable Welles is a perfect foil for the sardonic but inexperienced young man. Welles at 22 is close to Richard's age, but far from the center of his moral compass. Incidents of anti-Semitism and misogyny distress the teen, yet the actor/producer's brilliance and daring are like a magnet. Richard's dreams of a Broadway career soon fade, but he emerges from the experience with a desire to write, possibly a new romance, and certainly an important new friendship. This unusual coming-of-age story will intrigue teens; while the circumstances and time are very different from today, the feelings and ideas are universal.
Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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He re-creates Orson Welles Julias Ceasar from the inside. I could see the performance. I believed all the characters including "Fertilizer" young Joseph Cotten.
Then I find out the writer was born in the 50's?
Kudos to Mr.Kaplow from another creative writing teacher who is also a great fan of 30's culture.
Kaplow must have a time machine, though. It was suspiciously good.
I have ordered all his other books, parodies and YA's.
Yjis was one of those rare books I didn't want to end.
Into this glittering theatrical world, seventeen-year-old Richard Samuels literally stumbles upon his first acting job - a bit part in Welles's fledgling Mercury Theatre production of Julius Caesar. Full of big dreams and hopelessly idealistic, Richard has no idea what he's gotten into when he joins the production and finds himself in Orson Welles's starry orbit. Welles is a star on the rise and he knows it. The man is a pompous jerk but the allure of his genius is irresistibly strong and undeniable. In one short week, Richard probably learns more about life, love, and his own purpose and self-worth than many people do in an entire lifetime.
Richard's voice just shines and makes this novel a joy to read. He's worldly-wise yet naïve, sarcastic yet sweet - in other words, a typical teenager made up of all the confusion and contradictions that accompany that time of one's life. Kaplow also excels at building his setting - he absolutely nails NYC. The city itself is as much of a character as Richard or Welles, and reading the descriptive passages in the novel made the sights, sounds, and smells of the city come alive. This book is also one of the best mash-ups of fiction and historical fact that I've ever come across. I'm a huge classic film fan, so reading about Orson Welles's theatrical beginnings, or learning that actor Joseph Cotten was a member of the Mercury Theatre troupe, were absolutely fascinating. While I could never claim to be a Wellesian scholar, based on my perception of Orson Welles's character from his films that I've seen, Kaplow has done an excellent job of capturing the essence of the man. Every time Welles spoke on the page, it was his unmistakable voice that I heard in my head while reading.
If you've seen the television show Slings & Arrows, Me and Orson Welles comes as close as you could wish to capturing the humor, angst, and life found in the theater. Me and Orson Welles is a breezy, insightful, laugh-out-loud funny love letter to a golden age in American entertainment.
One minor carp to the author; Les Tremayne, one of the great radio actors of the time, was not "short and dumpy". While I can't attest to his height, his appearence in over 50 films and innumerable TV shows will attest to his slim, elegant look complete with dapper mustache.
A minor, but peerhaps telling point considering that the book reads like a memoir and was written by someone obviously to young to be its protagonist.