Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Briefly Noted

Not Pretty Enough, by Gerri Hirshey (Sarah Crichton Books). This engrossing biography of Helen Gurley Brown, the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan, who shook up the sixties with her book "Sex and the Single Girl," is written in a style worthy of its subject: intimate, charming, and slightly unhinged. "Pussycats, she'd been there," Hirshey writes, explaining her subject's appeal to the millions of women who sought her advice on careers, fashion, and sex. Been there she had: from an impoverished upbringing during the Depression through an early career as a secretary--she was often expected to sleep with her bosses, and sometimes did--and landing the top job at Cosmo, Brown knew all the dilemmas facing the new American working woman. Not all of her ideas have weathered the decades intact, but Hirshey captures why they were compelling for their time.

The World According to Star Wars, by Cass R. Sunstein (Dey Street). In this brisk book, a Harvard law professor uses George Lucas's cinematic phenomenon to tackle such disparate topics as the creative process, the writing of constitutional law, and why people commit terrorist acts. A fan of the "space opera" franchise, he situates each film within its historical and political contexts as he considers how luck, an era's zeitgeist, and word of mouth all contributed to the success of "Star Wars." Although Sunstein's applications of the films' themes at times stretch the limits of plausibility, his enthusiasm for their ethos--"Redemption is always possible"; "Freedom is never an illusion"--is endearing. …

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