Mitchell deserves more musically sophisticated treatment, though this is serviceable enough as a straight fan-notes homage....

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RECKLESS DAUGHTER

A PORTRAIT OF JONI MITCHELL

A new biography of the luminous folk singer and musical icon.

If you don’t already believe that Joni Mitchell (b. 1943) is a genius without peer, you might have a hard time making the case from this effusive book, long on gossip but short on analysis, except of a kind of ethereal quality. As Yaffe (English/Syracuse Univ.; Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown, 2011, etc.) writes, “Joni may have felt that she was the lone member of the Canadian lunatic generation, but it was her destiny to alchemize all that loneliness into music that made people feel they were not alone.” Meaning, one supposes, that Mitchell, nee Roberta Joan Anderson, wrote songs geared to sensitive people that amounted to a corpus that, as David Crosby once proclaimed, “was the highest quality of songwriting that I’d run into. I liked her better than Dylan or anybody.” Yaffe’s book is a useful appreciation, but it doesn’t delve enough into the whys and wherefore of that songwriting and its high quality—why an odd open tuning mixed with onrushing lyrics should alchemize into something like “Coyote,” say, though we do learn that there was a lot of sex and cocaine in LA in the 1970s and that Jackson Browne and James Taylor may not be the nice guys their public images suggest. “Even if cocaine fueled some of Hejira’s powerful songs,” writes Yaffe, “the clarity of going off coke produced other songs that came from a different and equally compelling kind of power.” That’s a soufflé of a sentence, and, like so much of the book, it needs more grounding in Mitchell’s actual work and at a deeper level than, for example, “it is on the bridge about the ‘lonesome blues’ that the chords get interesting.”

Mitchell deserves more musically sophisticated treatment, though this is serviceable enough as a straight fan-notes homage. Readers wanting to go deeper into the art would do better to start with Malka Marom’s Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words (2014).

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-24813-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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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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