Overwritten yet strangely dispassionate sound and fury, signifying far less than Sonic Youth’s ardent, explosive music.

GOODBYE 20TH CENTURY

A BIOGRAPHY OF SONIC YOUTH

Alt-rock noise icons of the ’80s and ’90s receive an exhausting bio.

Music scribe Browne (Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley, 2001, etc.) wrestles at unsatisfying length with the music and career of Sonic Youth. Much of the early going is devoted to Connecticut-raised guitarist Thurston Moore’s apprenticeship in the ’70s New York punk scene and California-bred bassist Kim Gordon’s in the L.A. art world. In the East Village, the couple (who would later wed) hooked up with guitarist Lee Ranaldo, whose work with avant-noise axeman Rhys Chatham was mirrored by Moore’s tenure with the influential racket-monger Glenn Branca. With first drummer Bob Bert and latter-day skinman Steve Shelley, Sonic Youth created a flurry of forceful, inspired independent-label albums that melded battering detuned guitar work, hardcore punk energy and elusive pop-culture references to make them the darlings of the post-punk indie underground. Following the release of their two-LP 1988 masterwork Daydream Nation, the band began an uneasy but lucrative two-decade stint with major label Geffen Records, whose delusional executives believed their abrasive, experimental music could attain the same immense commercial success as pop-friendly grunge hitmakers Nirvana. Browne’s recounting is awash in factoids that swamp the narrative. He is so intent on supplying details, no matter how minuscule or irrelevant, that the forest is swiftly obscured by the multitudinous trees. Judicious editing could have reduced the book’s arduous length by a quarter; it could also have cut down on the clichéd rock-crit adjective slinging with which Browne attempts to explicate Sonic Youth’s complex music. Though the band members and their longtime associates sat for interviews, only Ranaldo is especially self-revelatory; Shelley seems merely petulant, while Moore and Gordon, whose career-long personal and professional relationship is the core of the tale, are extremely guarded.

Overwritten yet strangely dispassionate sound and fury, signifying far less than Sonic Youth’s ardent, explosive music.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-306-81515-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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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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