A welcome—though by no means essential—sociocultural study for the Beatlemaniac bookworm.

BEATLENESS

HOW THE BEATLES AND THEIR FANS REMADE THE WORLD

Sociological study of first-generation Beatles fans and how the Fab Four shaped ordinary Americans’ lives over a six-year period.

Sociologist and baby boomer Leonard manages to find a new angle of approach to the study of the Beatles. Her book is the latest testament to the seemingly infinite possibilities for commercial exploitation of the lads from Liverpool in the literary marketplace. However, instead of an opportunistic music critic spouting off on the Beatles’ multiform wonderfulness, here we get a cross section of the first generation of Beatles fans adding their own long-overdue opinions to this seemingly endless pop-cultural conversation. Although the book does have some of the unfortunate trappings of an average academic research project, Leonard mostly steers clear of convoluted classroom language and deluges of distracting footnotes to fashion an intermittently enlightening historical-cultural narrative of how the Beatles helped change America’s youth culture forever. The book is divided into chapters that cover a number of different important eras in Beatles history, beginning with the author’s pre-Beatlemania historical perspective on how “the events of the Kennedy sixties gave birth to a new sensibility, a new consciousness, at odds with the conformity and stifling constraint of the era.” The most engaging aspects of the book are not so much about the Beatles’ music widening an already expanding generation gap with their attitudes, hairstyles, clothes and sophisticated pop tunes; the value of the book hinges more on intergenerational comparisons and contrasts of how “Beatleness” affected members of the youth demographic, especially when it comes to differing gender perspectives on the Beatles’ music. Leonard also provides a helpful overall sense of how the average American Beatles fan not only accommodated the lightning-speed stylistic shifts in the band’s music from 1964 to 1970, but how these changes affected the decisions they made in their own personal lives.

A welcome—though by no means essential—sociocultural study for the Beatlemaniac bookworm.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62872-417-2

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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