Exhaustively researched but too discursive for its own good.

ALICE IN CHAINS

THE UNTOLD STORY

Biography of a drug-ridden Seattle grunge outfit whose fame peaked in the mid-1990s.

In his nonfiction debut, Georgetown University graduate student de Sola brings a refined sensibility to the tale of Alice in Chains, a band that gained widespread notoriety but lost two of its original members to drug-related causes. The author aptly situates the band’s sound, attitude, and lifestyle in the context of a particular time and place; his subjects were outcast working-class kids growing up bored in the Pacific Northwest, in love with punk and classic rock just as much as 1980s hair metal. Of course, the main focus is on the band’s once-charismatic frontman-turned–heroin casualty, Layne Staley, whose distinctive, brooding style would come to be almost as widely recognized as Kurt Cobain’s banshee wailing. De Sola approaches writing about the band with the sort of genteel orthodoxy one might apply to a master’s thesis. To the author’s credit, though, his staid writing purposefully avoids the usual overheated rock-speak, letting quotes from the band and those operating in their milieu do the necessary dirty work. De Sola also integrates countless interviews with the band members’ surviving friends and family and just about anybody who was ever remotely associated with the band. Unfortunately, though, the book requires more aggressive content editing, as it drags readers along on too many detours detailing the dead-end side projects of the band members, not to mention their onstage (and backstage) high jinks. In the end, just like too many rock bands over the years, Alice in Chains couldn’t transcend the pitfalls of drugs, money, and overnight fame. Along with other bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains helped destroy complacent glam metal, but they also left behind a trail of futility and wasted talent in their wake.

Exhaustively researched but too discursive for its own good.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04807-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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