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Me and Orson Welles Hardcover – Oct 3 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 269 pages
  • Publisher: Macadam Cage Pub (Oct. 3 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931561494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931561495
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 13.9 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,354,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

"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.

From School Library Journal

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Robert Kaplow's Me and Orson Welles is not a coming of age story. It's a Manhattan tale of an age that slipped through our fingers. A Times Square that only exists in the memory of old Broadway troopers, colored in with characters straight from the files of a dozen or so New York newspapers that have met their own expiration dates. But this book, the story of how Richard Samuels, a New Jersey teenager manages to brass his way into Orson Welles' avant garde 1937 production of Julius Caesar and then survive for seven full days is every bit the Broadway tale. Come along and listen to Kaplow's lullaby of Broadway as seen through Richie Samuels's eyes. This is the Broadway that Damon Runyon wrote about in "Guys and Dolls". And while Richie is working his bit part with the great Orson Welles, you can be sure that not far away, Sammy Glick from Budd Shulberg's What Makes Sammy Run? is conning his way from copyboy to Hollywood. It might seem a bit unorthodox to mention Runyon or Shulberg's classics but author Robert Kaplow has recreated the Manhattan they described so superbly and then dropped Richie Samuels right into it. This author is masters of subtext because you know what the major characters like Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton and John Houseman will go on to do in later years. We, the readers, know the secret and we relish in it every bit as much as Walter Winchell might bark, "Wynta gimmee a few words?" This is young Richie Samuels, who knows everything there is to know about the theatre, names of all the greats and the shows in which they appeared as well as the songs they sang.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book because a review on the back caught my eye. It described the main character, Richard Samuels, as a combination between Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn. Considering The Catcher in the Rye and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are two of my favorite books, I couldn't pass this one up. I really enjoy books of this genre (I am comparing it to Carter Beats the Devil or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) where modern authors revisit early 20th century events. Plotwise, this novel was great. It was exciting and well-paced, and the minor characters were well-developed and interesting. However, the reason I did not love the book is that Richard is probably the my least favorite character in literature. He is self-obsessed and pompous. He talks like the characters on Dawson's Creek talked; that is, at a level that his actions in no way reflect or support. He always seemed to know the right thing to say and somehow managed to charm everyone around him. To me, he seemed unrealistic, the kind of character an author wishes existed instead of one who really would. So, really, if Kaplow could have kept Richard within the bounds of reality for a seventeen-year-old, I would have enjoyed the book a lot more.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is for adults but would be a great read for older teens. It is set in 1937 New York, and Richard Samuels is a 17 year old who can't get any attention at school, least of all from girls. But that's ok, because Richard knows one day he'll be a famous actor. That day turns out to be very soon. Richard happens to meet a loud young man on the street named Orson Welles. Orson is a 22 year old mad genius about to direct Julius Caesar, and he casts Richard in his play. Quickly Richard becomes involved in the world of Broadway, with its beautiful young starlets, Orson brown-nosers, New Yorker critics, and torrid affairs. Richard ditches school to devote his all to the play and to Orson, who he idealizes. But Richard's dreams of fame and riches may come to a crashing halt as he discovers that being close to Orson Welles also means that you'll be run over by the bulldozer that is his ego.
For any fan of Orson Welles or WWII era historical fiction, this is a short, fun novel about a what-if situation of a young boy's dreams of stardom alongside Orson Welles.
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By A Customer on March 16 2004
Format: Hardcover
In August 1937, theater wunderkind Orson Welles announced the formation of a new theater for the common man. The Mercury Theatre, inspired in name and spirit by H.L. Mencken's audacious (and popular) American Mercury magazine, promised to serve "people on a voyage of discovery in the theatre ... people who had either never been to the theatre at all or who, for one reason or another, had ignored it for many seasons." This was four years before Welles made his indelible mark on Hollywood with the classic film Citizen Kane.
         Though he was only twenty-two, Welles had already directed and starred in a handful of hugely popular radio dramas. He had impressed New York critics and audiences with his stage productions of, among others, Doctor Faustus (playing the title role as well as directing), Horse Eats Hat (a musical based on Eugene Labiche and Marc Michel's An Italian Straw Hat), and especially Macbeth (presented at a Harlem theater with an all-black cast). Welles not only directed all these productions but adapted the texts as well, with the intent of making them more accessible and vital to general audiences. He planned to do the same for the Mercury's inaugural production, a modern-dress version of Julius Caesar. He would also play the pivotal role of Brutus. The show went into rehearsal in October, with an announced opening night of November 11.
         Waiting in the wings
         Enter, literally, Richard Samuels, the hero and first-person narrator of Robert Kaplow's snappy new coming-of-age novel, Me and Orson Welles. Though the action spans only a week in young Richard's adolescence, he learns enough lessons to last a lifetime, about love and honor and theater, and love and honor in the theater.
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