Books: Show and Tell

Entertainers elicit an extraordinary range of responses from their audiences—admiration, love, even secular idolatry. They ought to be praised and analyzed for the gifts that cause such reactions. But these days it is not enough for performers to be gifted or versatile. As a new wave of show-biz biographies gloomily illustrates, stars must now be pumped up into symbols of their profession or indictments of their society. It was in just this spirit of distorted inflation that Albert Goldman last year took Lenny Bruce from shlepper to counterculture shaman in 13 uneasy chapters.

Among the personalities lately subjected to runaway inflation, none...

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