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  • Writer's pictureRich Flanders


When you pick up MIKE NICHOLS - A Life, by Mark Harris, you may soon find it hard to put down. The biography is one of the most deeply penetrating probes into the creative process I’ve ever read and a must read for anyone in the creative arts. Fellow performers and directors will be riveted, and musicians, dancers, writers will all be deeply rewarded, but by no means is the book’s appeal limited to performing artists. As swift and enthralling as a fine novel, the story is on a vast human scale that engages any reader.

Exploring the life of Mike Nichols helps illuminate characteristics of artists and the artistic process that are universally true. Watching Nichols’ work on a film or play, Harris captures the dynamics of the creative process. We witness the fleeting, ineffable, intuitive flashes that shaped such memorable films as The Graduate, Silkwood, Who's Afraid of VIrginia Woolf, Angels in America, The Birdcage, and stage triumphs like Barefoot in the Park, Streamers, The Odd Couple, The Real Thing, Death of a Salesman, and his Evenings with Elaine May.

The story takes on another level of meaning for those of us whose lives in theatre paralleled Nichols’ career. Throughout the book are people and moments that personally touch the trajectory of our own performing lives through some of those years.

The narrative is not always pleasant, delving deep into the often dark labyrinth of Nichols’ mind, but thanks to Harris' unflinching exploration, one of the seminal artists of 20th century theatre and film is fully captured.

Reading this book is to grow harrowingly close to the heart and soul of Mike Nichols, and as you come to the last pages you feel the full impact of how deeply he entered our lives. His departure becomes a devastating personal loss. I can’t think of a greater tribute to an individual, or a book, than that.

This is one of the most rewarding, absorbing, and beautifully written biographies I’ve ever read, or expect to read.

Rich Flanders

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