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Show and Tell: New Yorker Profiles Paperback – April 1, 2002

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

According to Lahr, New Yorker profiles are exercises in biography that average 10,000 words and take four months to research and write. Here, the two-time winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism and author of several biographies, plays, and novels turns in 15 of his New Yorker profiles dating from 1995 to the present. Thirteen cover such celebrities as Woody Allen, David Mamet, Frank Sinatra, and Roseanne; two are devoted to Lahr's parents. All 15 profiles are extremely well written and offer insights into their subjects. Unforunately, the sum of the whole does not equal its parts; the book does not cohere, and it is doubtful whether any single reader would find all profiles of interest, as some of the subjects are not household names (e.g., Liev Schreiber, Neil LaBute). With this in mind, libraries might want to think twice before purchasing, but those collecting compilations of writing by New Yorker contributors should consider.ANeal Baker, Earlham Coll., Richmond, IN
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Lahr is that rarity among American entertainment journalists, a polished and graceful writer. Others may research their subjects as exhaustively as he does, but few who are as fixated on fame and celebrity as he take as much care to produce balanced, witty, readable prose. Of course, he admits that profiles such as those collected here generally take four months each to write, and each is a distillation of "about fifteen hundred pages of transcribed interviews." Also, Lahr is a New Yorker writer, and that journal has always put a premium on exceptionally good writing. Lahr's subjects in these late 1990s pieces include both celebs like Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra, and Ingmar Bergman, and obscurer, rising stars like director Neil Labute and cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard. Bonuses come in the form of moving meditations on Lahr's famous father, Bert, the subject of his son's popular memoir Notes on a Cowardly Lion (1969), and mother, Mildred, who is less famous but no less worthy. Jack Helbig
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520233778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520233775
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,670,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Joel L. Gandelman VINE VOICE on September 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In these days when performers are celebrated -- and demeaned -- for being famous, every little tidbit of information is up for grabs by the media. I say this as someone who was a journalist for nearly 20 years (and is now an entertainer). What's missing on the market: candid performers' profiles that still convey WHY great performers are GREAT performers and -- sometimes -- great people or great creeps. Show and Tell contains 15 of John Lahr's BEST New Yorker show biz profiles. The zest and verve of these creative folk and Lahr's excitement writing about them is all here. The subjects: Woody Allen, David Mamet, Frank Sinatra, Arthur Miller, Liev Schreiber, Roseanne, Irving Berlin, Wallace Shawn, Eddie Izzard, Neil Labute, Bob Hope, Ingmar Bergman, Mike Nichols, and his parents Bert and Mildred Lahr. You don't have to even know who these celebrities are (you'll enjoy this book if you're in your early 20s) to love these profiles: each chapter tells you how they got from point A (childhood) to point B (becoming great entertainers, playwrights etc) -- and about all the joys and obstacles along the way. Don't expect simplistic tabloid journalism but more detailed interviews. The Bob Hope profile was controversial when it was first published since it not only hinted at adultery but etched a portrait of a man who created a corporate comedy machine -- and even needed cue cards when performing at a private party. But there's tons of info amid these revelations. My other favorite profiles and tidbits include: Woody Allen (his casting method for movies sometimes boils down to him looking at someone for a few seconds), Bert Lahr (his frustration at not having made many movies, unlike some of his vaudeville colleagues), Roseanne (her rage-based comedy; how she wrested control of her t.v.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
As a lifelong subscriber to The New Yorker, I have especially enjoyed reading Lahr's various "Profiles." Fifteen of his best are anthologized in this volume. The subjects are Woody Allen, David Mamet, Frank Sinatra, Arthur Miller, Liev Screiber, Roseanne, Irving Berlin, Wallace Shawn, Eddie Izzard, Neil Labute, Bob Hope, Ingmar Bergman, Mike Nichols, and the author's parents, Mildred and Bert Lahr. My personal favorites are those which discuss Sinatra, Miller, Roseanne, Hope, Bergman, and Nichols but I was pleased to re-read all of the others also. Lahr has a somewhat specialized form of genius for crafting what are indeed "profiles" rather than portraits, much less in-depth character analyses. Even when fondly discussing his own parents, he seems to have no limiting biases, "baggage" or predilections. It is high praise to note that the reader feels as if she or he is a "fly on the wall" during Lahr's conversations with his subjects...and at other times, as if the reader can hear him thinking aloud while alone and in reflection. Lahr's is a naturally casual style (so sophisticated that it seems effortless), perhaps most evident when discussing Bob Hope. According to Lahr, Hope's wife Dolores and the children were "extras" in his life. "It was hard for anyone in the family to get much of Bob Hope." Lahr shares this without judgment, suggesting implications without manipulating inferences.. With Hope as with each of the 14 others, Lahr's objective is to capture the essence of his subject, the esential qualities and characteristics which are revealed in "defining moments" of inimitable behavior or utterance. Lahr's reader (at least this one) is left to wonder what he would have to say about so many others such as Saul Bellow, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Fosse, Jackie Gleason, Sam Peckinpah, Jackson Pollock, Martha Stewart, and Oprah Winfrey.
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Format: Hardcover
The New Yorker is famous for its witty prose, "casuals," and most of all---its Profiles of famous and not-so-famous people. The New Yorker is also famous for unbelievably long pieces (sometimes taking up the entire magazine) and occasionally being so "in" that the readers are left "out."
John Lahr has all of the virtues: elegant, thoughtful writing, and he leaves you wishing for more. Mr. Lahr specializes in Entertainment Profiles, a difficult undertaking. He avoids the landmines of sound-bytes, scurrility, fawning and trivia. He delivers fifteen gleaming, sharp-edged Profiles on disparate personalities.
I feel the best are the ones that are not contemporaries and/or friends of the author with the exception of the lovely word portraits of his parents, father Bert, and mother Millie (who might or might not have had an affair with Joseph Cotton!) Mr. Lahr needs a certain amount of distance to do his best work. He is clearly an admirer of Woody Allen, and it shows. I felt we were seeing the brushed up and shiny side of this highly complex entertainer. Bob Hope is given the finest dispassionate treatment; Lahr steps back and allows Mr. Hope produce his own cause and effect. The reader can judge for himself. I was left thinking, as my grandmother would say, "this is NOT a very nice man." To me, Roseanne was frightening with her rage and skewed perspectives. It wasn't what Mr. Lahr said about her; it was Roseanne being herself. The Profile on Frank Sinatra left me with a emotion I would never, ever thought possible in conjunction with Ole Blue Eyes: pity.
I read this book straight through, almost at one sitting. I found it that fascinating. But it can be read at leisure. Just start anywhere; there's not a loser to be found!
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