Nino’s Book Corner: Revelatory Letters to Nina Cassian (A Memoir by Maurice Edwards)
By Nino Pantano
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN — In his nearly 90 years, Maurice Edwards has had a versatile life, including many years as an actor and then nearly 20 years as music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, where he championed many contemporary works. This book, Edwards’ memoir, is written in the form of a series of letters from him to poet Nina Cassian, trying to make sense of it all.
The book begins with Edwards as a young American soldier at the end of the World War II in Lugano, Switzerland, looking into the darkness of Lake Lugano and briefly thinking of ending it all. The book’s “stream of consciousness” takes one into all the labyrinths of his life, including his first wife Ann and son Jacob and later on to Ms. Cassian, who served as his muse.
His acquaintance with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas is detailed, as are his many acting roles, including Mr. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera, the beggar in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway and the girl’s father in The Fantasticks on Sullivan Street. While acting with Zero Mostel, he learned that if he played a particular line too funny, it might mean a diminution of the laugh meant for Mostel. So Edwards learned to play his line straight so that Mostel would get the laugh!
Mario Fratti, the playwright (Nine), wrote of this book, “A stunning moving memoir. There is poetry, love, knowledge, a memoir that encourages and stimulates all of us.”
Nina’s final response in the book is “Birthday Poem 2010 for Maurice,” which reads in part: “You are the Man among the Men. You are my M and I am your N.”
All in all, the book is a fascinating journey, and Edwards’ quote from Schiller in the book says it all, “Live with your century — but do not be its creature.” There are some wonderful photographs waiting for you in this unique book, which is published by QCC Gallery Press. Also by Maurice Edwards is How Music Grew in Brooklyn: A Biography of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.
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Another book we are recommending is Hollywood Movies on the Couch —– “A Psychoanalyst Examines 15 Famous Films” — by Dr. Henry Kellerman.
Kellerman has divided the book into three sections, “solos, duets and trios.” Who will be the key person on the couch? Here are some tantalizing questions that are resolved in the book.
In Casablanca, why does Rick really send Elsa away with Victor Laszlo?” Is the main character in The Graduate Mrs. Robinson or Benjamin, her future son-in-law, who she seduces?
What is Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds really about? Other films studied include Pretty Woman, Laura, When Harry Met Sally, The Passion of the Christ, Superheroes, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Day of the Jackal and Husbands and Wives.
Kellerman has had a career of 50 years in New York City as an interpreter of personality, and his insights into the realm of film will leave you enlightened, informed and, like Mrs. Robinson, wanting “MORE!” Kellerman’s first study of Hollywood, Hollywood’s Jewish Stereotypes, is a classic of the genre.
The new book is published by Barricade Books.
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