A dishy but overstuffed and overly praiseful portrait.

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DAVID BOWIE

A LIFE

A sweeping, gossipy biography of the chameleonic pop star in the form of an oral history, with input from dozens of collaborators, lovers, and admirers.

Bowie himself weighs in, too, as longtime music journalist and British GQ editor Jones (Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died, 2014, etc.) scored excellent access to Bowie and his cohort. However, Bowie’s contributions are mostly gnomic pronouncements—e.g., “my art has little to do with trends, and nothing at all to do with style.” For details (and dirt), Jones finds producers Tony Visconti and Brian Eno, who weigh in on Bowie’s approach to recording (game for anything but impatient); fashion and music journalists, who were wowed by his path-breaking 1970s performances; his first wife, Angie, who had an embattled relationship with the singer as he deeply indulged in sex and cocaine in the mid-’70s. (Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes recalls “so many girls coming and going one by one, nonstop.”) Bowie’s musical output after the early 1980s is generally dismissed as cravenly commercial and/or lazy, but Jones’ interlocutors tend to argue even Bowie’s miscues reflect the same seeking spirit that produced “Ziggy Stardust”; he just became more interested in acting and art collecting and had settled down with his second wife, Iman. Jones unearths quirky bits of Bowie-ana (he wanted to sing a duet with Mick Jagger from a space shuttle) and details his highly creative months preceding his death from cancer in 2016. But the occupational hazard of oral histories is that they lack broader context, and a hermetically sealed, accentuate-the-positive feel intensifies in closing pages thick with encomiums—though the author does make room for critic Paul Gorman’s assessment: “he made execrable records during 1984-1995, often wore terrible clothes, stupid makeup and had rotten haircuts.” Jones captures his subject’s transformations and the responses they provoked, but the tone is fan-friendly, assuming Bowie's greatness rather than arguing for it.

A dishy but overstuffed and overly praiseful portrait.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49783-3

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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