Me and Orson Welles Hardcover – Oct 3 2003
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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