Tasty as a Buddy Guy guitar lick, but seldom revelatory.



One of the last survivors of Chicago blues’ golden age of the 1950s and ’60s, Guy retravels a familiar route in this ingratiating but disappointingly slim as-told-to autobiography.

The son of rural sharecroppers, he became fixated with playing the guitar after hearing John Lee Hooker’s 1949 hit “Boogie Chillen.” He caught firsthand glimpses of such Louisiana stars as Lightnin’ Slim and Guitar Slim, the latter of whom supplied the blueprint for Guy’s flamboyant performing style. He lyrically recalls his 1957 train trip to Chicago, a Mecca for émigré musicians from the South. After an arduous period, he began to burn up the South Side’s bars; his local stardom led to record dates at Chess Records, then home to blues giants like Muddy Waters, who encouraged him in his early days, and the forbidding Howlin’ Wolf, who wanted to hire him. (Wary of Wolf’s harsh treatment of his sidemen, he declined.) Work ultimately became so scarce that Guy drove a tow truck to make ends meet, but he finally found success in the ’60s on the European festival scene and then in the rock ballrooms. Guy has a wealth of entertaining, occasionally raunchy stories about the contemporaries he revered, including Muddy, Wolf, Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Big Mama Thornton and B.B King. Sometimes he takes a jab: Songwriter Willie Dixon was stingy about sharing credit, guitarist Albert King was a tightwad, label owner Leonard Chess never paid royalties or recorded him at his extroverted best. He has fonder memories of the young white performers—especially Brits like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and the Rolling Stones—who helped shine a spotlight on his work. He saves his best stuff for longtime musical partner Junior Wells, the pugnacious, oft-incarcerated harmonica ace. At most junctures, the material about Guy’s fellow bluesmen is so choice it pushes the book’s purported subject into the background. And there’s little about the major renewal of Guy’s career after the 1991 release of his Grammy-winning Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues.

Tasty as a Buddy Guy guitar lick, but seldom revelatory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-306-81957-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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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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