Also of interest ... in performers and their arts

Empire of Dreams by Scott Eyman; Sarah by Robert Gottlieb; Bob Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz; Composed by Rosanne Cash

Empire of Dreams

by Scott Eyman

(Simon & Schuster, $35)

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Movie director Cecil B. DeMille remains a cipher, said Malcolm Jones in Newsweek. With his megaphone, knee-high boots, and autocratic mien, he “cultivated an image of dashing, unquestionable authority” that even the skilled, sympathetic Scott Eyman can’t fully penetrate. But DeMille left an indelible mark on Hollywood, and this fat new bio serves the legend well. “Told at a breakneck pace, Empire of Dreams resembles nothing so much as a DeMille movie—gaudy, corny, and enthralling.”


by Robert Gottlieb

(Yale, $25)

The event-filled career of legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt is “a gift to the raconteur,” said The Economist. Robert Gottlieb packs plenty of juicy tales into this slim new life of the “thin, pale beauty” who grabbed the attention of 19th-century audiences by flaunting her promiscuity, keeping circus animals as pets, and emoting on stage as few had before. Gottlieb’s “lively and amusing account” lacks just one key ingredient: a firm explanation for “the extraordinary devotion she inspired.”

Bob Dylan in America

by Sean Wilentz

(Doubleday, $29)

This could have been a classic—a renowned Princeton history professor writing about an artist he’s admired for a half-century, said Geoff Dyer in the London Observer. But Sean Wilentz’s take on Dylan is never more than merely “interesting and intelligent.” The author is at his best when exploring the songwriter’s relationship with the folkies and the Beats. But as Dylan’s career moves on, “a whiff of the classroom” feels like the only thing holding this fact-filled study together.


by Rosanne Cash

(Viking, $27)

Rosanne Cash’s “beautifully written” memoir transcends its genre, said Joe Heim in The Washington Post. Since the 2003 death of her father, Johnny Cash, the 55-year-old singer-songwriter has survived brain surgery and, briefly, the loss of her voice. Her honesty about her experiences distinguishes this book from most celebrity memoirs. “It is a tale of paths she took that can serve as a road map for anyone who has faced struggles, disappointments, even tragedy.”

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