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Austin Chronicle Off the Bookshelf

JULY 19, 1999: 

Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick by Frederic Raphael (Ballantine), $12, paper

Stanley Kubrick's death gave Frederic Raphael something few screenwriters get: the last word. Raphael co-wrote Eyes Wide Shut with Kubrick from Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 Traumnovelle. As Raphael explains in his new memoir of working with Kubrick, "Sisyphus is the screenwriter's mythological patron saint. For resisting the gods (the directors of the ancient world), he was sentenced forever to roll a huge rock uphill." Most successful writers manage to suffer in silence, taking the good with the bad when paired with brilliant collaborators. Early in their work together, Raphael observes that Kubrick "is, I begin to suspect, a movie director who happens to be a genius rather than a genius who happens to be a movie director." When toiling among cinema's giants, the writer often finds feet of clay. But from a screenwriter's viewpoint, Raphael's memoir is an important homily. It amplifies the fears and joys of working with this century's most powerful artform. Kubrick's death came as a blow to many, and fittingly, Raphael respectfully concludes, "Immortals, too, can die." --Cary L. Roberts

Rebels in White Gloves: Coming of Age with Hillary's Class -- Wellesley '69 by Miriam Horn (Times Books), $24 hard

Just as Hillary Clinton danced around the question of whether she will run for senator of New York, so does Rebels in White Gloves dance around a direct portrayal of the first lady. This book would never have gotten to the presses without Hillary's name in the title: Exploring the life and times of a certain class at a certain Boston college is just not that compelling. That said, author Miriam Horn makes a solid case for why the experiences of Wellesley's '69 class should be chronicled. Wellesley's rarefied world of afternoon teas and marriage lectures was turned upside down by the feminist movement, and Horn provides an engaging record of how these bright, self-aware women reacted to a pivotal period in American social history, as well as its aftermath. By mining the thoughts of those who came of age alongside Clinton -- and who are more at liberty to speak candidly -- Horn offers a penetrating study of the career, family, and spiritual issues Clinton and her peers have struggled with in the last 30 years. --Jessica Berthold

Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Curious Adventures by Louise Rafkin (Plume), $11.95 paper

Louise Rafkin is no ordinary cleaning lady. She is a cleaning lady with a master's degree in comparative literature and the political leanings that one might expect of a liberal arts graduate. Given her eye for what makes a good story -- coupled with her concern for the downtrodden -- Rafkin's memoir is a humorous look at one of our country's most underappreciated professions from an extremely articulate individual who will make you think twice the next time you leave a check for the cleaning service. Other People's Dirt is a funny look at housecleaning that covers everything from rude employers and evil capitalist cleaning services to attaining spiritual enlightment through cleaning. Anyone who has ever had the unparalleled joy of working in a job with lots of public interaction will get a laugh out of Other People's Dirt.. --John Baker

Just Desserts: Martha Stewart, the Unauthorized Biography by Jerry Oppenheimer (Avon), $6.99 paper

Just Desserts so thoroughly eviscerates Martha Stewart that she is laid out before us, carved to perfection and ready for our consumption. Just imagine the ugliest, meanest things possible about the calculating and clever Mrs. Stewart and multiply by 10. Dee-lish. Jerry Oppenheimer writes books so perfectly tailored to my carnivorous tastes that he is clearly as ill as I am. His previous effort, The Other Mrs. Kennedy (about Ethel!), was, plain and simple, one of the most vicious books ever published. And a true delight. Just Desserts serves up plenty more of the same. Martha, like Ethel, was ruthless in her climb to the top, and Martha, like Ethel, left dozens of bloodied and bruised victims in her wake. Unfortunately for both of them, their victims just love to talk. This book definitely makes its own gravy. --Stephen Macmillan Moser

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