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Brutal, absorbing, hilarious.
am 17. März 2000
The outsider's nonchalance of chief narrator Henry Hill and Nicholas Pileggi's highly restrained hand in helping him relate his story has resulted in a book which shuns any sense of melodrama and emotional attachment. Instead, we get a highly intelligent, insightful, and funny look at Mafia life, stuffed with fascinating details.
As befits his reporter background, Pileggi stays at a distance. Unlike its offspring movie GoodFellas, where director Martin Scorsese effortlessly blended the smart-aleck text of the book (incorporating it into the film as probably the best voice-over ever written and performed) with elements of suspense, poetry, sensuality, visual comedy, and energy. In Pileggi's book, it's all cerebral. Hill's magnetic personality and storytelling talents make this book an addictive read. Pileggi also flaunts a real editorial talent, skipping out of Hill's first-person account and delving into journalistic mode at the most suitable moments, giving background where necessary, and stepping back to let the reader make the moral judgments as s/he sees fit.
Different from, but the equal of, GoodFellas. I'd take the opposite stance from other people by saying that it's probably better to see the film first; the emotional investment Scorsese weaves into the story offers a rich contrast to the book's neutral tone. And reversing the process will also facilitate the viewer/reader in seeing through the outdated accusation of "This didn't really happen" when watching the film.