26 Booklist September 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
Bolshoi Theater, founded in 1776, has sur-
vived and flourished. The Bolshoi’s dancers,
ballets, and composers, its administrators and
detractors and supporters—all are tantalizing-
ly depicted here, including
the evolution of Swan Lake,
the Chinese denunciation
of pigtails in The Red Poppy,
and the twenty-first-century,
$680-million-plus renovation of the Bolshoi Theater.
Balletomanes will drool
and sigh, music lovers will
be fascinated (sadly, not everyone got a fair
shake: “Brilliant Soviet composers would be
censored, their careers threatened along with
their lives”), and lovers of Russian history will
gain fresh insights. Morrison notes that, despite the supposed deaths of classical music,
opera, and ballet, “all endure.” A riveting history of a besieged, globally significant ballet
company. —Eloise Kinney
as only a woman with firsthand experience
could. —Annie Bostrom
YA/S: Teen acting hopefuls will be
inspired by Henson’s hard work and rise to
Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the
Russian Ballet from the Rule of the
Tsars to Today.
By Simon Morrison.
Oct. 2016. 512p. illus. Norton/Liveright, $35
About midway through Morrison’s charming and astonishingly detailed history of
Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, he states that “the
art mattered, in a way that, arguably, ballet has
never mattered anywhere else.” Given the robust thoroughness of this book, Morrison may
find no one who will argue this point. From
its earliest days, through Napoléon’s invasion,
the reigns of czars and czarinas, Moscow burning more than once, and the Cold War, the
From the Headlines to Hollywood: The
Birth and Boom of Warner Bros.
By Chris Yogerst.
Oct. 2016. 232p. Rowman & Littlefield, $38
(9781442262454); e-book, $37.99 (9781442262461).
In its early years, which were also the early
years of Hollywood, Warner Brothers was a
film studio known for both gritty movies,
often about crime and punishment (Little
Caesar and The Public Enemy), and for award-winning, glossier films ( The Life of Emile Zola
and The Story of Louis Pasteur). What set the
studio apart from its competitors? In this
perceptive study, Yogerst suggests it was the
approach: Warner Brothers told stories that
managed to speak directly to their audience.
The author backs up his thesis by looking at
numerous movies, showing how the films’
themes and even sometimes their scripts drew
on issues being talked about in the media and
in public discourse. It was a shrewd business
model that paid off big-time, and the book is
a shrewd look not just at one of the original
Golden Age movie studios but also at the film
industry’s birth and early years. —David Pitt
A Life in Parts.
By Bryan Cranston.
Oct. 2016. 368p. Scribner, $27 (9781476793856).
One could be forgiven for being unaware
of the soap opera Loving (1983-1995). It’s
entirely possible to have ignored the mania
for Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006), and
certainly understandable to have missed the
handful of Seinfeld episodes featuring dentist
Tim Whatley. But one would have to have
been living in a cave on Mars to be oblivious
to the cultural phenomenon that is Breaking
Bad. As suburban chemistry teacher turned
drug kingpin Walter White, Cranston took
whatever viewers might have thought about
him as Loving’s nice guy, Doug Donovan, or
Malcolm’s nerdy dad, Hal, and turned that on
its head. As Cranston discusses seminal episodes from his past as an estranged son from
a broken home, a rent-a-cop security guard, a
Universal Life minister, and a struggling actor, he builds the case that, as an actor, every
experience shapes each persona you portray.
Cranston fans will delight in the intimate revelations in this substantial memoir from one
of Hollywood’s most introspective stars. And
anyone interested in acting will devour Cranston’s savvy advice about honing one’s craft
and building one’s career. —Carol Haggas
Love for Sale: Pop Music in America.
By David Hajdu.
Oct. 2016. 320p. Farrar, $27 (9780374170530). 781.64.
Music critic Hajdu’s (Positively 4th Street,
2001) deft examination of the history and
meaning of popular music follows its devel-
opment from the sheet-music era through the
dawn of records, the hit parade, radio, video,
and into the digital age, demonstrating how
“pop songs . . . have always been part of the
production of the culture.” Pop music serves
Beach Boys member Love chronicles how the
Wilson brothers found massive success with
songs celebrating West Coast surf and car cul-
ture. He describes how mental illness hobbled
Brian, who spent years out of commission on
drugs. Dennis, Love explains, was sexually insa-
tiable, generous to a fault, and for a time allowed
Charles Manson and some of his followers to live
in his mansion. Dennis also had an affair with
Love’s former wife Suzanne (prompting Love
to contemplate killing him), and later married
a woman who claimed to be Love’s daughter.
Much vilified by music aficionados, Love at-
tempts to set the record straight, describing how he collaborated with Brian on many of
the group’s more well-known songs but wasn’t given writing credit until years later, fol-
lowing a lawsuit. Admittedly, he was more concerned about commerce than art, but he
never said, “Don’t fuck with the formula.” Love might not make converts out of haters,
On a flight to Houston at the end of 1964, a breakthrough year
of hits including “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “I Get Around,” the voices
in Brian Wilson’s head became unbearable, prompting the decision
to cease touring with the Beach Boys. More at home in the studio,
Wilson fought hard to complete Pet Sounds, an album now considered
a masterpiece. Plagued by voices of doubt—from his dad, the group,
the record label, and in his head—Wilson attempted to complete
SMiLE, but the pressure proved to be too great, sending him into
drug-fueled isolation, followed by “nine years of bullshit” under the
tyrannical guardianship of a now infamously unethical psychologist.
Wilson finally escaped Dr. Eugene Landry’s influence with the help of
Melinda, a car salesman who became his wife. He completed SMiLE
nearly 40 years later, initiating a new period of creativity. “My story
is a music story and a family story and a love story, but it’s a story of
mental illness, too,” writes Wilson. Music journalist Greenman helps
keep this meandering memoir coherent and poignant. —Ben Segedin
LOVE & WILSON
Good Vibrations: My Life as
a Beach Boy.
By Mike Love and James S.
Sept. 2016. 448p. Penguin/Blue Rider,
$28 (9780399176418); e-book, $13.99
I Am Brian Wilson.
By Brian Wilson and Ben
Oct. 2016. 320p. Da Capo, $26.99