Memoirs by rock icons of the 1960s and ’70s are flying fast and furious these days. This is one of the best, lively and...

BOYS IN THE TREES

A MEMOIR

Understated but revealing memoir by the long-absent but still much-played pop star.

The daughter of a Simon & Schuster co-founder of demanding disposition (“my nose wasn’t the only way I disappointed him”), Simon grew up both privileged and beset by all manner of neuroses, traumas, and challenges. Not least of them, she would discover, were anxiety attacks and near-debilitating stage fright, which, in a particularly memorable moment here, an audience in Pittsburgh helps her work her way through: “Anyone who knew what a serious bundle of nerves I was should never have allowed me to leave home, much less perform,” she writes, good-natured as always. Another was a severe stutter that her boyfriend, the writer Nicholas Delbanco, would find charming but that led to her career as a singer, since she could sing her way through a sentence (or, in college, an Italian poem) unimpeded. Simon is perhaps best known for her tumultuous marriage to fellow singer James Taylor, and her account of their time together is both rueful and unsparing of either of them. “From the beginning,” she writes, “James and I were linked together as strongly as we were not just because of love, and music, but because we were both troubled people trying our best to pass as normal.” The best parts of the book are when the author describes how her songs came into being, while the few tedious ones are moments when names are dropped right and left: McCartney, Kristofferson, Nicholson, Dylan, Jagger. But, after all, she’s allowed: Dylan did adapt a song for her, and Jagger did help her sing through the song that began its life as “Ballad of a Vain Man,” wherein hangs a wonderful tale of “Narcissus and Goldmund desiring ourselves in each other.”

Memoirs by rock icons of the 1960s and ’70s are flying fast and furious these days. This is one of the best, lively and memorable. Check the new album that accompanies the book, too.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-09589-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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