A helpful but limited on-the-ground look at a startup still in its infancy.

RECORDED TIME

HOW TO WRITE THE FUTURE

Two brothers document the beginnings of a memoir service in this business book/autobiography.

The Greenberg brothers recount that they had an idyllic upbringing. The two were close but different. Aaron was a talented researcher and editor with a passion for Shakespeare, a writer navigating the treacherous landscape of the post–Great Recession gig economy. His younger brother, AJ, with a more methodical temperament, was trained in industrial engineering and employed at a commercial bank in Chicago. His skills were suited to problem-solving. Late-night phone calls between the two and a unique family heirloom—a letter of only three pages, a mere 600 words, painting a rich, vibrant picture of a grandfather they’d never met—gave birth to the idea of a “legacy writing business.” The brothers started bioGraph, an on-demand, boutique memoir service, a more personal response to the sterile DNA searches and family trees of companies like 23andMe and Ancestry. The brothers sought to make the business both marketable and sustainable. In this book, they share the advice they received from various mentors, from well-known Chicago banker Norm Bobins to their fabulously wealthy, curtly charming confidant Keith Jaffee. The story of bioGraph is approached in the same style that the company might tell one of its customers’ tales. Recollections come from the Greenbergs themselves, AJ having kept a journal of the company since its founding in 2018, with additional asides and curation by poet Toby Altman. The volume thoroughly outlines the company’s origins and the personalities involved, even including at the end the important letter. For those in the midst of their own startups, there are a lot of valuable tips here. Understanding scalability and generating demand for a product are covered in depth, with the Greenbergs offering much of the same useful advice they pounded the pavement to unearth. Vivid anecdotes about engaging new technology and working with eccentric clients stress keeping an open mind. A particularly bombastic style of writing from one of their customers becomes a dynamic example of what bioGraph can provide. But as a memoir, the book falls short. The authors seem to be aware of this, forgoing traditional tales of triumph and tragedy—and never really defining what success would be—in favor of recording the company’s early days.

A helpful but limited on-the-ground look at a startup still in its infancy.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951946-11-1

Page Count: 163

Publisher: bioGraph

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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