Greek Fire: The Story of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis

Nicholas Gage, Author Alfred A. Knopf $26.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-375-40244-9
Arguing that previous books about Maria Callas (1923-1977) and Aristotle Onassis (1904-1975) are full of errors, investigative reporter Gage (Eleni) attempts to set the record straight on the couple's birth dates, where they first met, when they first slept together and many other details of their ill-starred love affair. His most interesting revelation, based on Callas's private papers and statements by her maid and butler, is that instead of the abortion Callas said Onassis forced her to have in 1966, she actually had a ""secret son,"" a baby, conceived at the beginning of their affair in 1959, who died the day he was born. Gage gives an exhaustive account of the infamous three-week cruise on which the much-publicized liaison began, accounting for each meeting between the opera diva and the shipping tycoon, what they said, what they ate and wore, and how the other passengers, including Callas's husband and Onassis's wife, reacted to the developing scandal as they sailed along the Greek and Turkish coasts on Onassis's opulent yacht. The author asserts that the lovers were drawn together in large part by their shared Greek heritage, and he equates their mutual passion with ""Greek Fire,"" the all-consuming incendiary substance used in battle by the warships of the Byzantine empire. Unfortunately, the book, laden with excess detail, fails to emanate the same heat. So much has already been written about the affair that, even though the particulars may change and new facts are found, the story is all too familiar, especially the depressing ending--the aging tycoon marrying Jackie Kennedy instead of Callas and immediately regretting it, and the prescription-drug-dependent diva living as a recluse in Paris, still in love with Onassis but refusing to accept him again as a lover. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-330-48444-2
Mass Market Paperbound - 640 pages - 978-0-446-61076-6
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