Consistently surprising and richly entertaining.

1973

ROCK AT THE CROSSROADS

An astute observer of popular culture takes a granular look at 12 months of music that reflected “the aftermath” of the preceding cultural revolution.

In a natural follow-up to 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music (2015), Los Angeles–based music writer Jackson examines another pivotal year in popular music, when radio programmers figured out how to commodify “ ‘album-oriented rock’…[which] soon segregated rock from other genres that once spurred its evolution.” There’s all sorts of intriguing cross-pollination going on in the author’s rollicking retrospective of 1973, a year that some may consider unexceptional. However, Jackson’s expansive exploration obliterates such notions. On one hand, 1973 was a remarkable year for celebrated acts to produce some of their most seminal works, including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Who’s Quadrophenia, and Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies. On the other hand, 1973 was also an exceedingly fertile time for exciting new artists to burst on to the scene—Bruce Springsteen with Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.—and for others to break away from the confines of their home countries and garner a more global audience (Bob Marley’s Catch a Fire). The title aside, Jackson demonstrates a determination to be musically inclusive. “Fifteen of the year’s nineteen No. 1 albums were rock albums,” writes the author. “In 2018, only eight out of the forty-one No. 1 albums were rock.” Though Jackson dives deep into AOR radio, he makes it clear that 1973 was also about outlaws Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings upending the country music scene; superstars Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye revolutionizing the Motown sound; Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell defying genre norms; and much more. As the year turned over, the top song in the country was Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.” A month-by-month selected timeline helps readers situate the events discussed in the book.

Consistently surprising and richly entertaining.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-29998-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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