"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.
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
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I met Mr. Robert Kaplow at one of the book signings. I was pushing my books and he was working on his. Frankly, we were not too busy. Read morePublished on June 30 2004 by Boris Zubry
This novel was just selected for inclusion on the Books for the Teen Age 2004 List from the New York Public Library, and well it deserves the award. Read morePublished on March 24 2004
This book is said to make one feel the texture, smells and sounds of NYC in the 30's so I was put off by corn appearing as a "street food" - maybe in other cities - ( I... Read morePublished on March 21 2004
The novel is set in late 1930's New York City. The story covers a week in the life of Richard Samuels, a seventeen year old suburban high school student who, by chance, lands a... Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2004 by Maurice Williams
I see that this title has just been nominated as an ALA BEST BOOK for young adults, and I'm glad to see it get some notice. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2004
Heard the author interviewed with Warren Levinson on AP Radio News last weekend. Picked the novel up and devoured it in two sittings. It made me want to be young again! Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2004
This is a sweetly-sad tale: beautifully evocative of a lost time. I read an interview with the author in the SUNDAY NEW YORK TIMES (1/11/04) and bought the novel. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2004
I heard the interview with Kaplow on MORNING EDITION last week and knew I had to get the novel. Read it in one sitting. A little gem. Funny, lyrical, and extremely entertaining. Read morePublished on Dec 16 2003 by Harry Hodes