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review 2017-05-12 21:52
This Time Together (Burnett)
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection - Carol Burnett

I haven't read the various other books by "serial autobiographer" Burnett. This one I would describe as light and, without the slightest snarkiness, "heart-warming." It consists of anecdotes of a page or two each about various people in Burnett's life, mostly celebrated people, and mostly funny anecdotes. She has anchored it with some stories about family as well, but there is no prolonged anlysis of the career, let alone psychological navel-gazing. This is Carol Burnett sitting at dinner or at a party, telling her best stories. I have no doubt that many of them have been polished or even improved a little over time. It doesn't matter. Throughout the book she exposes what seems to be a very real gift for appreciating those around her and, more unusually it seems to me, a strong gift for forming mutually respectful working creative partnerships with other very talented women (Lucille Ball, Julie Andrews, Beverly Sills).


One of the delights of the internet age is to read an anecdote about a particular TV episode or special, and then be able to go online and find it, however fuzzy, to watch and appreciate as if for the first time. It slows up the reading, but most enjoyably so. In the case of this book, a two-page anecdote turned into an hour of media-watching several times over!

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review 2016-09-27 16:39
Thank Heaven (Caron)
Thank Heaven: A Memoir - Leslie Caron

I found this memoir quite interesting, the more so since Caron had an international career rather than merely a Hollywood one. Like so many people whose name is made in Hollywood (and particularly women, unfortunately), her greatest celebrity came very early in her life, and from her thirties onward, both her career and her personal life appear to have been spent searching for new identities, sometimes successfully sometimes not.


Unusually, Caron had an extra string to her bow from the very beginning: her ballet career, which was associated primarily with the highly reputable Roland Petit company. Being picked out by Gene Kelly to co-star in one of the most celebrated Hollywood musicals of all time, An American in Paris, meant that she had many more opportunities than a dancer would normally have when the dancing legs failed, but she also identifies (with some frustration) the negative effect of that Hollywood association upon her acceptance within the continental European artistic communities. It is notable that the straight dramatic role that got her a Best Actress Oscar nomination, in "The L-shaped Room", was for a British film, not American or French. However, she did eventually work with Truffaut, whose ghost, she jokes, finds her parking spaces. In mid-career, she also appears to have become part of the Film Festival circuit, appearing on a number of major juries.


The chapters about American in Paris, Lili, Daddy Long Legs, and Gigi (the four roles instantly associated with her) I found the least interesting, possibly because we already know the principal characters so well. It's hardly news that Gene Kelly was a taskmaster and that he overrode the nominal director of American in Paris, Vincente Minnelli. We know that Fred Astaire was traumatized by the loss of his wife during "Daddy Long Legs" and nearly quit; it's nice to hear that he was able to genuinely lose the sadness for a moment as they filmed the Slue Foot number. On the other hand, I found the chapters about Caron's strong friendships with eccentric men like filmmaker Jean Renoir and author Christopher Isherwood to be new and illuminating. I was also completely unaware, until I read this memoir, that Caron was temporarily "Queen of Stratford", being married to Peter Hall of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Unfortunately, it appears that professional jealousy on his part greatly depressed her acting career: notably for this Canadian reader, he apparently put a stop to her projected appearance in two Shakespeare plays at the infant Shakespeare festival in Stratford, Ontario (where audiences, as she says carefully, would be "less doctrinaire" - read, unsophisticated). On her way out of that marriage, Caron had a lively affair with Warren Beatty.


Rudolf Nureyev pops up periodically in the narrative, which is always delightful - once, dancing a trio at a Met Gala with Caron and Baryshnikov; and then again teaching Caron Russian swear words for "On Your Toes", a return to a dancer's role that apparently was ill-conceived, given that she was in her fifties and had not danced seriously for decades.


There was another passing mention of a Canadian connection that intrigued me enough to do a little research - she mentions having signed on to do a "small Canadian movie", flying to Toronto, and then retreating - and presumably buying her way out of the contract - when she discovered the actors who were supposed to be teenagers were in their 20s. She gives the name of the movie as "Beginners Three", but it turns out that it was made as "The First Time", filmed chiefly in Niagara Falls, but a U.S. not a Canadian production. The lead was played by Jacqueline Bissett, and the whole thing looks entirely forgettable.


Although I think there are many episodes that didn't make the pages of this volume (one Goodreads reviewer points out the name of a lover in the 90s who is entirely omitted), Caron is nonetheless quite happy to be frank about people she didn't get along with, including David Niven, and both Kirk and Michael Douglas. Given the stories about how she breezed into a small town and imposed her will upon both bricks and mortar and the local townsfolk in creating and running an auberge, she doesn't seem overly worried about having rough edges herself. Certainly, losing the perks of a well-heeled childhood and surviving World War II in France, as she describes in the earliest chapters, must have made her into a rather tougher cookie than that shy little girl we think of dancing across from Kelly and Astaire. Given the length and variety of her career, it's good to have this record of how she saw her world.


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text 2016-09-26 02:16
Narrators who anime fans might recognize (Part 1?)

This post is inspired by a purchase I just made. Let's see how many of these folks I can track down. It's too bad that several of them have only narrated stuff I'm not interested in listening to, but I guess that keeps my Audible library from ballooning too much.


I've made an effort to list only those people who I was reasonably sure were really the audiobook narrators. For example, I found an audiobook narrated by a guy named Kirk Thornton, but he didn't sound like the Kirk Thornton I know from anime and I couldn't find any evidence they were the same person. Same with Liam O'Brien - I couldn't confirm that the audiobook narrator and the anime voice actor were the same person. If there are mistakes on this list, feel free to let me know.


Anyway, on to the list. Who knows, maybe there will be a part 2.


1. Alessandro Juliani


Anime fans may know Juliani as: L (Death Note)


A few audiobooks:


Nine Princes in Amber: The Chronicles of Amber, Book 1 - Roger Zelazny,Alessandro Juliani  Solaris: The Definitive Edition - Stanislaw Lem,Bill Johnston (translator),Alessandro Juliani,Audible Studios  


2. Chris Patton


Anime fans may know Patton as: Greed (Fullmetal Alchemist), Soushi Miketsukami (Inu X Boku Secret Service), Creed Diskenth (Black Cat)


A few audiobooks:


Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy - Chris Wyatt, Marvel Press,Chris Patton,Disney  Fatal Shadows - Josh Lanyon,Chris Patton  


3. Vic Mignogna


Anime fans may know Mignogna as: Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist), Death Scythe (Soul Eater), Zero (Vampire Knight)




A Howl at the Moon - Nathan Squiers,Vic Mignogna,Tiger Dynasty Publishing 


4. Eric Vale


Anime fans may know Vale as: Yuki Sohma (Fruits Basket), Trunks (Dragon Ball Z), both America and Canada (Hetalia: Axis Powers)


A few audiobooks:


Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts - Doug Merlino,Eric Vale,Audible Studios for Bloomsbury  The Crippler: Cage Fighting and My Life on the Edge - Chris Leben,Daniel J. Patinkin,Eric Vale,Audible Studios  


5. Stephanie Sheh


Anime fans may know Sheh as: Orihime (Bleach), Micchon (Eden of the East), Hinata (Naruto)




Til Morning's Light: The Private Blog of Erica Page - Ross Berger,Stephanie Sheh,Audible Studios 


That's it for now. Hopefully I'll come across some more later.

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review 2016-09-15 16:16
Lola Montez: her life and conquests (Morton)
Lola Montez: Her Life & Conquests - James Morton

Morton is a professional biographer with a specialty in gangland true crime, so Lola Montez is a little bit out of his wheelhouse, but perhaps not very much so! He gives full credit to Bruce Seymour's fundamental work, based on archival material, from a decade before this was published. I was curious to see how Morton would make the subject his own.


The subtitle gives a bit of a clue: Morton has spread his contextual net quite a bit wider, and that includes giving more biographical detail than Seymour on the various men that passed through Lola's eventful life. In addition, he also picks up historical detail about a place or person from before or after Montez' encounter with them: for instance, we get a few pages on the subject of Jane Digby, the English adventuress who preceded Lola in Ludwig I's affections. We also get a bit more illustrative detail on social and physical conditions in Californian and Australian gold country. The last chapter is a follow-up on the fate of Lola's supporting cast, plus a survey of Montez in popular culture (novels, theatre, film, even ballet) after her death, which I found an interesting and useful addition. He recommends "The Heavenly Sinner" by Thomas Everett Harré as probably the best novelization.


The second way I'd say Morton distinguishes himself from Seymour is in his very extensive use of contemporary newspapers, a source he's probably extremely comfortable in because of his true crime specialty. So we get a good feel of how the average English-speaking newspaper-reader saw Lola over the course of her life (and from her obituaries), since he has clearly tracked pretty much every reference to her in all the English-language papers in Britain, the U.S. and Australia. I suspect he did not feel similarly comfortable in the other European languages.


Finally, Morton's narrative tone is quite a bit more spritely than Seymour's. I can't imagine the latter writing, "Throughout her life Lola appears to have believed men's hearts were situated somewhere below the fourth waistcoat button." He's not above inserting an adjective or adverb into an otherwise bald statement of fact to support a cynical reading of the situation. While by no means in the same league of trashiness of some of the modern celebrity biographies I've read - Morton gives us notes, bibliography, and index, and a highly restrained use of the exclamation mark - this work is in tone aimed far more at the casual reader. (That, by the way, is not any sort of criticism of Seymour's prose, which I found highly readable also).


While I'm not sorry to have read the two different and well-researched takes on Lola Montez' bizarre life, that's about enough Lola for me now.

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review 2016-09-07 15:37
Lola Montez: a life (Seymour)
Lola Montez: A Life - Bruce Seymour

After reading a novelization of this interesting woman's life, I was moved to find an actual biography. In fact, my public library has two: this is the earlier (1995), and clearly the result of an impressive amount of original research. Seymour appears to have had no difficulty with the multilingual nature of his archival sources (few would argue that the most interesting period of Montez' life, as well as the best-documented by letters, was when she was the mistress of King Ludwig of Bavaria; she also spent periods of time in French-speaking Europe, and she posed as Spanish, which meant she had at least some command of the Spanish language). I enjoyed Seymour's measured but lively discussion of all phases of the life of Montez (aka Eliza Gilbert, aka the Countess of Landsfelt, aka any number of other occasional names).


At the end of this account, I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for Lola. She was celebrated during her life for her physical beauty, for an apparently ungovernable temper, and for a blithe disregard for "middle-class morality", as Alfred Doolittle would say. What becomes rather clear is that she earned all of this reputation before she was thirty, making far more than most women would have of the very limited opportunities she was offered by her birth (illegitimate) and upbringing (peripatetic, without secure financial resources, and with little or no care or love from her nearest surviving relative, her mother). It was apparently in her 30s that she grew up quite a bit, discovering that she had more reliable talents - decent acting, and quite good public speaking - than the limited quasi-dancing and scandalous acquisition of rich lovers that had sustained her as a younger woman. She also, apparently sincerely, turned to religion, of the Protestant variety. Her near monomania on the subject of Jesuit plots against her is one of the less attractive features of the story, and one I do not fully understand, though it appears to be very much intertwined in European politics of the day. Seymour downplays the influence she claimed to have had over the liberalization of Bavaria during the time when she was Ludwig's mistress, which was also the time of the 1848 revolutionary movements across Europe.


Though she may have grown up a bit when she went to America, according to Seymour's sources, Lola did not by any means stop trading on her scandalous status; either completely deliberately (she is perhaps the first woman ever to be photographed holding a cigarette, in New York in 1851) or by her continuing failure to control her temper (her Australian acting tour was only one of the occasions on which she created an incident by taking a riding whip to someone). More troublingly, even as she developed a reputation for being very generous with both money and time to humble people, she was also capable of downright mean behaviour, such as assembling an American acting company to go to Australia, and then dumping them completely after their first engagement, leaving them to find their own way home. Unfortunately, she also appears to have remained an inveterate liar throughout her life, although Seymour's quotations suggest she may have become self-aware about that towards the end.


Though he documents Montez' affiction by migraines throughout her life, Seymour does not give a medical diagnosis of what carried Lola off at the age of 39. According to Wikipedia, it was syphilis.


I am impressed with Seymour. He's not an academic (the writing of this volume was financed by his extensive winnings on Jeopardy) but he has the instincts of one, and he got this book published in a nice edition by Yale University Press. He also had the grace to donate all his research materials to a University library so that others could delve even deeper. Good for him.

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