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PRINCE

A THIEF IN THE TEMPLE

It’s lonely out there for sui generis eccentric geniuses—luckily, gifted writers like Morton are able to bring them a little...

Cogent analysis of The Artist Currently Known as Prince.

Scottish arts journalist and broadcaster Morton (The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, 2006, etc.) traces the Purple One’s musical evolution over the course of a remarkable yet strangely unresonant career. Neither a standard linear biography nor show-biz tell-all, the book is steadfastly focused on the music and the psychological and sociological conditions that informed it. Morton proposes that Prince’s music is uniquely biracial, borrowing heavily from both black R&B and soul tropes and white rock and pop styles; two of his largest influences are identified here as Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell. Convincingly, if at times a bit baroquely (his enthusiasm and verbal facility can lead him down some baffling rabbit holes), Morton develops the idea that this is one of a host of dichotomies that lie at the heart of Prince’s work and mystique. Others include the tension between sacred and profane themes in his lyrics, his aggressive androgyny and ambiguous ethnicity and the unusual racial dynamic of his hometown, Minneapolis, a city whose overwhelmingly white population has historically enjoyed relative social harmony with its tiny black community. Morton’s analysis of each album is impressively nuanced and erudite, scrupulously avoiding sycophantic apologies for weaker entries in the canon, and he makes a convincing case for his subject’s status as a profoundly significant musician. And yet, Prince’s infamous insularity (if not outright paranoia) also defines his work: For all his success and dazzling musical accomplishments, he’s a bit of a closed loop; unlike other artists of his stature, he strangely lacks imitators or disciples. The trails he blazed were personal, inward and, in the main, left fallow by succeeding generations of musicians. This self-contained, self-indulgent quality is simultaneously Prince’s most fascinating and frustrating characteristic—not to mention, another dichotomy.

It’s lonely out there for sui generis eccentric geniuses—luckily, gifted writers like Morton are able to bring them a little closer to us.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-84195-916-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Canongate

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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