A seamless blend of the musical and literary verve, with just enough research to ground and elucidate.

CHASING CHOPIN

A MUSICAL JOURNEY ACROSS THREE CENTURIES, FOUR COUNTRIES, AND A HALF-DOZEN REVOLUTIONS

LaFarge delves passionately into the history and culture—up to the present day—surrounding Chopin's legendary Opus 35 sonata, whose third movement contains “the world’s most famous funeral march.”

In a singular work combining historical research and personal and musical passion, the author, who is also an accomplished pianist, demonstrates how Opus 35 encapsulated many components of the brief and stormy life (1810-1849) of its composer. Exiled from his native Poland, the innovative young pianist, teacher, and composer set out on a series of “peregrinations” throughout Europe, finally settling in the piano capital of the world, Paris, where he was swept off his feet by author George Sand. As LaFarge makes abundantly clear, Chopin’s time living with Sand and her family deeply informed his best work. Both artists were visionaries in their chosen mediums: Sand effectively challenged the misogynistic literary formulas of her day, and Chopin pioneered a distinct style via a diligent search for a new tone, made possible by the technological advances in the piano at the time. LaFarge is at her best writing about the techniques of piano playing, and while certain passages will be challenging for nonmusicians, the author points to an accompanying website, whychopin.com, which offers a host of relevant musical selections for each chapter of the book. Moreover, the author embarked on the requisite pilgrimages to the lovers' haunts in Majorca, Paris, and Nohant, Sand's country estate in central France, where Chopin completed his sonata. In addition to her engaging history, LaFarge energetically pursues Chopin's continued influence on musicians today—especially jazz musicians, who have relished his liberating style, best described by Sand as a unique combination of "severity and grace, melancholy and magnificence.” Indeed, it’s apparent that Chopin endures today, “as fresh, inspiring, and inventive as ever.”

A seamless blend of the musical and literary verve, with just enough research to ground and elucidate.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8871-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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