Read alongside Ray Davies’ X-Ray (1995) and Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming (1992) for a vivid account of a bygone musical...



A rueful, funny memoir of a doomed life in rock ’n’ roll.

Dubbed (mostly posthumously) Britain’s answer to the New York Dolls, the Hollywood Brats cooked up a mighty roar now enshrined in one very hard to find LP. The Brats—a name with “a dash of louche decadence to it”—began life as The Queen but were forced to change the moniker when another band with a record contract lay claim to it. No sweat for mastermind and axman Matheson, who is, as the narrative finds him smack in the middle of 1973, desperately seeking a record deal of his own. His representative made the rounds, tape in hand, and the record company executives listened. “They listen,” he writes, “their smiles disappear within seconds, they turn him down flat. Old colleagues question his sanity.” So it is in the glamorous world of glam-era rock music in swinging London, whose airwaves, as Matheson’s spry yarn opens, are dominated by a tune called “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep,” which, he rightly growls, “makes you want to drive spikes into your ears and crucify your brain.” The author recounts the hard work of putting together a band, especially one with a drummer who can hold a beat and a bass player who doesn’t look like he’s trying out for Jethro Tull. If we’ve heard the story before—band squabbles over lack of money, band gets gigs, band squabbles over presence of money—Matheson writes with an easy, loping gait, covering the four years when Hollywood Brats tried to make their mark on the world, only to wind up a cult favorite 40 years on. If he’s sometimes a little too breezy—his asides to rock stars of the era, Bryan Ferry and Mick Jagger among them, verge on cloying—it’s a minor demerit for a book that’s long on laughs and even insight.

Read alongside Ray Davies’ X-Ray (1995) and Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming (1992) for a vivid account of a bygone musical era.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18533-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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 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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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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