Essential reading for Reed fans and strongly recommended for anyone interested in rock as art.

LOU REED

A LIFE

A full-length portrait of legendary musician Lou Reed (1942-2013).

Rolling Stone contributing editor DeCurtis (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pennsylvania; In Other Words: Artists Talk About Life and Work, 2005, etc.), who followed Reed’s career closely over the years, claims to be one of the few rock writers Reed respected. Focusing on the music as much as the singer’s often dissolute lifestyle and controversial opinions, the author makes a good case for Reed’s lasting significance. Born in Brooklyn, he moved with his middle-class Jewish family to Long Island when he was a young boy. A rebellious teenager, he began playing in bands early on. At Syracuse University, he came under the influence of the poet Delmore Schwartz, who encouraged him to take writing seriously—and served as a model of the bohemian lifestyle. Moving to New York City, he soon joined up with the future members of the Velvet Underground, who gained cachet by being “adopted” by Andy Warhol. But the band set another pattern that would dominate Reed’s career: an inability to share credit. Singer Nico, installed by Warhol to give the band glamour, and John Cale, who co-wrote many of the band’s songs, were both bones of contention. Reed embarked on a long solo career, marked by alternating flashes of brilliance and gestures that seemed deliberate self-sabotage. DeCurtis faithfully chronicles all of them, with detailed information on recording sessions and Reed’s musical collaborators. He also gives illuminating background information, often drawn from Reed’s personal experiences, on what led to some of the compositions. Despite a flamboyant lifestyle in the gay culture of the day, Reed was an intensely private person, but the author has made every effort to interview those who knew him best. While his assessment of Reed’s importance seems slightly overblown, the book is a well-written, valuable document of a major figure in the American rock scene, putting a human face on a man who often seemed impossibly remote.

Essential reading for Reed fans and strongly recommended for anyone interested in rock as art.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-55242-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

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

INTO THE WILD

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

more