Likely not the definitive book on Prince, but certainly one that merits attention by fans and students of pop culture alike.

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DIG IF YOU WILL THE PICTURE

FUNK, SEX, GOD AND GENIUS IN THE MUSIC OF PRINCE

A satisfying portrait, warts included, of the Purple One, one-time heir to the thrones of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix alike.

Readers approaching a biography of Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016) are likely to take as a given that the subject was one of the great musical geniuses of history. If they are not, then New Yorker contributor Greenman—the as-told-to author of Questlove’s well-received memoir Mo’ Meta Blues (2013), among other nonfiction and fiction—is prepared to recite the artist’s bona fides: from his breakthrough album of 1980, “Dirty Mind,” to the 1989 soundtrack to Batman, Prince “rarely if ever put a foot wrong,” and from “1999” to “Sign O’ the Times,” a period including the definitive “Purple Rain,” he was “perfect, the equivalent of Bob Dylan from 1965 to 1969, the Rolling Stones from 1968 to 1972, Talking Heads from 1980 to 1985, or Public Enemy from 1988 to 1991.” Big shoes, all those, for the diminutive, sometimes-litigious, and decidedly eccentric artist to fill, but Greenman makes his case at leisure—and convincingly. Moreover, he notes, Prince remained an experimenter throughout, one of the great masters of the recording studio who had an archivist’s talent for tucking away even the tiniest of musical scraps, for which reason we’re likely to have Prince albums well into the future. Sometimes Greenman’s enthusiasm melts into diffusiveness, as when he invokes the psychological theory of flow to discuss Prince’s creative processes; sometimes it gets a little silly, as when, writing of Prince’s household staff, he notes, “a pixie did his laundry and the universe, his will.” Still, the author avoids most of the worst clichés of music writing, and it’s clear that he knows and appreciates music at large as well as his immediate topic.

Likely not the definitive book on Prince, but certainly one that merits attention by fans and students of pop culture alike.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-12837-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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