people, previously published sources, and pro-
prietary documents supplied to him by the
Jim Henson Company, Gaines goes behind
the scenes to chronicle story meetings, char-
acter and set design, filming, and so on. The
book is printed on thick, glossy paper and is
lavishly, beautifully illustrated in full color,
with sketches, production stills, or behind-
the-scenes photos on every page. In addition
to all that, the volume features reproductions
of original hand- and typewritten memos and
story pitches, attached to the pages as though
the original documents had been stuck inside
as placeholders or bookmarks. A spectacular,
visually thrilling celebration of The Dark Crys-
tal’s thirty-fifth anniversary. —David Pitt
Leonardo da Vinci.
By Walter Isaacson.
Oct. 2017. 576p. illus. Simon & Schuster, $35
Isaacson’s writings of late have been con-
cerned with genius: biographies of Benjamin
Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. Now
he takes on perhaps the ultimate genius, a man
whose interest in art and science intertwined
in spectacular ways. Putting together the life of
Leonardo da Vinci (despite his own numerous
entries in his famous note-
books) seems to have been
a more complicated task for
Isaacson than was present-
ing his previous subjects
(and, of course, he had the
advantage of numerous per-
sonal interviews with Jobs).
On the surface, the book
doesn’t seem to reveal much more about the
man personally—illegitimate, gay, sometimes
unfocused—than does a solid encyclopedia en-
try. Ah, but when Isaacson discusses da Vinci’s
artistic and scientific endeavors, all manner of
fascinating connections begin to emerge. With
the strong advantage of having four-color im-
ages of Leonardo’s work placed throughout his
text, Isaacson can both show and tell, writing
with assurance about the different influences
on the artist’s works, where his passions lay
and overlapped. Leonardo’s fascination with
anatomical structure informed his paintings;
his profound interest in math and the trans-
formation of shapes influenced his inventions.
His delight in staging theatricals led to dramas
that offered interpretations of his allegorical art
and drawings. Encompassing in its coverage,
robust in its artistic explanations, yet written in
a smart, conversational tone, this is both a solid
introduction to the man and a sweeping saga of
his genius. —Ilene Cooper
Maestros and Their Music: The Art and
Alchemy of Conducting.
By John Mauceri.
Nov. 2017. 272p. illus. Knopf, $28.95 (9780451494023).
In this zealous memoir, conductor Mauceri,
whose decades-long career spans from opera
to symphony to Broadway (he is perhaps best
known as Leonard Bernstein’s preferred collaborator), describes his lifelong passion for
conducting. With descriptions of conducting
styles, the evolution of notation, and the differences between Western and Eastern music,
as well as more gossipy bits, like difficult orchestra relationships, reactionary symphony
boards, and hated critics, the book roves freely
from technical musical matters to memory. At
times self-important, yet at others self-deprecating, Mauceri is most intent on describing
the esoteric and paradoxical qualities of being a
maestro: giving decisive direction while allowing musicians freedom, making a classic piece
new while staying true to the composer’s intent,
communicating to the orchestra how a passage
should feel and sound—a difficult task indeed,
though he returns to these themes somewhat
repetitively. All in all, symphony-lovers will be
thrilled with the behind-the-scenes details, and
aspiring conductors will enjoy the rich industry insight. Those simply curious about how
classical music happens will feel drawn in by
Mauceri’s palpable passion. —Sarah Grant
The Man Who Made the Movies: The
Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of
By Vanda Krefft.
Nov. 2017. 944p. Harper, $40 (9780061136061). 791.43.
A man who grew up in “appalling poverty,”
with minimal education, claws his way up the
power ladder to become one of the giants of
Hollywood; then he buys a large stake in a
rival company using borrowed money, only
to have the Great Depression tear his life and
career into shreds. William Fox is the man,
the founder-owner of Fox Film, the third-largest studio in the early days of Hollywood,
and in 1929 he bought a substantial number
of shares in the Loew’s cinema chain, which
also happened to own MGM, Hollywood’s
second-biggest studio. The son of an Hungarian immigrant, Fox was a bit of a dreamer, but
he was determined to make a success of himself, parlaying an investment in a small movie
theater in 1904 into ownership of a major stu-
The life and creativity of songwriter, singer, and artist Joni Mitchell are freshly consid- ered in a collection of interviews, reviews, and articles and a major biography.
Joni: The Anthology.
Ed. by Barney Hoskyns.
Oct. 2017. 320p. Picador, $26 (9781250148629); e-book (9781250148643). 782.42164092.
Joni Mitchell is considered one of the great singer-songwriters of the modern era. Veteran author and music journalist Hoskyns has assembled a collection covering “(almost)
all” of Mitchell’s albums, reviews of her live appearances in clubs and concert halls, and
sit-down interviews. The publications represented include Melody Maker, Rolling Stone,
Blender, New Musical Express, Newsday, Variety, MOJO, the San Francisco Chronicle, and
pieces from Hoskyns’ own Rock’s Backpages website. “Her songs are reflections of a very
feminine way of looking at life,” writes Jacoba Atlas in the Guardian. Loraine Alterman in
the New York Times declares that Mitchell “doesn’t write love songs. She writes songs about
love.” Among the highlights is Hoskyns’ 1994 interview with Mitchell published here for
the first time. In it, she discusses songwriting (“I’m finally developing enough character in
my voice . . . to play the roles that I write for myself”), her bout with childhood polio (“I
had my legs taken away and then when I got ’em back, by God I danced my way through
my teens”), and the temptations of fame. A must for music lovers. —June Sawyers
Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell.
By David Yaffe.
Oct. 2017. 448p. Farrar/Sarah Crichton, $28 (9780374248130). 782.42164092.
In this dazzling biography, Yaffe so aptly calls Joni Mitchell (born Roberta Joan Anderson) “our eternal singer-songwriter of sorrows.” Ironically, Mitchell considered herself a
painter first, according to Yaffe. He perfectly captures not only the singer’s urban-inflected
and American-influenced lyrics but also music that is deeply rooted in Canadian prairie
soil (she was born in Alberta and raised in Saskatchewan). Like fellow Canadian Neil
Young, Mitchell was struck by polio at a young age. The disease scarred
her emotionally, but it also made her resilient and rebellious. She moved
to Toronto as an unwed mother and gave up the baby for adoption.
Her marriage to the American folksinger Chuck Mitchell, while pursuing her career on the folk music/coffeehouse circuit, was a disaster,
but she was writing songs while in her twenties, including the timeless
“Both Sides, Now.” Yaffe offers critical observations pertaining to all her
albums (including Blue, Ladies of the Canyon, The Hissing of Summer
Lawns, Court and Spark, Hejira, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, and
Mingus); recalls her halcyon and artistically fruitful days in the Los Angeles neighborhood
of Laurel Canyon; and discusses her relationships with the late Leonard Cohen, David
Crosby, Graham Nash, James Taylor, and Jackson Browne, among others. A shimmering
portrait of one artist’s life, illusions and all. —June Sawyers
JONI TIMES TWO