A fun, compassionate history of arena rock’s finest hour—and the less-fine hours that followed.

THEY JUST SEEM A LITTLE WEIRD

HOW KISS, CHEAP TRICK, AEROSMITH, AND STARZ REMADE ROCK AND ROLL

The story of four 1970s American rock titans: KISS, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, and, perhaps most importantly, Starz.

Starz, you may ask? That’s the point: The also-rans fit Brod’s theme that rock fame is sometimes arbitrary, usually absurd, and almost always fleeting. In the mid-’70s, all four acts were connected in terms of management, touring, and producers. KISS led the way both musically and theatrically; Aerosmith had a Stones-y (and for a long time druggy) vibe, and Cheap Trick merged anthemic rock with subtler, Beatles-esque songwriting. As for the glammy Starz, a band that had unlikely roots in one-hit wonders Looking Glass (“Brandy [You’re a Fine Girl]”), sharing management with KISS and stages with Aerosmith led at best to the nether regions of the sales and airplay charts and a role as tax write-off for KISS’ minders. When album-oriented radio stations emerged in the late-’70s, the band was “shut out of the broader airplay equation.” But even the bigger acts had Starz-like issues, struggling to stay relevant amid disco, hair metal, and grunge. Brod, former editor-in-chief of Spin, interviewed deeply, writes with a fan’s enthusiasm about all four bands, and braids their experiences to keep the book from reading like four separate bios. He’s also attuned to the Spinal Tap–ish nature of the acts, from backstage meltdowns to ironic calamities; Starz frontman Richie Ranno launched a successful business dealing KISS memorabilia until he was big-footed, yet again, by KISS. (Gene Simmons, infamously laser-focused on the bottom line, is a comically Mephistophelean figure throughout the book.) More information about the infrastructure of the music industry would better contextualize the story, and Brod delves further into the bands’ compromised late-period discographies than casual fans will care about. But their shifting fortunes are a reminder of their mix of talent and dumb luck: They all could have been Starz.

A fun, compassionate history of arena rock’s finest hour—and the less-fine hours that followed.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-84519-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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