A factoid-rich if bloated tribute to an overly maligned moment in pop history.

SWEET DREAMS

THE STORY OF THE NEW ROMANTICS

An oral history of England’s New Romantic pop movement, full of synths, style, and substance (no, really).

Conventional 1970 and ’80s rock history draws a direct line from punk to new wave to mainstream alternative acts, dismissing the likes of ABC, Spandau Ballet, Human League, and Culture Club as sideshows. But the more than 150 voices assembled by longtime pop journalist and GQ editor-in-chief Jones offer a more sophisticated—and, frankly, less homophobic—take. The scenesters who convened on London clubs like the Blitz saw punk as a spent force by the late ’70s and were more enchanted by electronic acts like Kraftwerk and the enduring glamour of David Bowie and Roxy Music. (For this crowd, Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” not a Sex Pistols or Clash single, was the key inspiration.) No question, fashion mattered plenty: Blitz impresario and Visage frontman Steve Strange proudly turned Mick Jagger away from his club because he was “dressed in a baseball cap and trainers.” But the music was vital, too, and Jones captures a moment when acts like Gary Numan, Yazoo, and Soft Cell were delivering pioneering synth-pop graced with some of Bowie’s stardust. The rise of MTV gave those bands a global platform but also spawned an army of lesser wannabes (even a young Ricky Gervais got into the act) and opened the movement to accusations of being only as good as their haircuts. The assembled commentators come armed with dishy anecdotes, though casual readers would be satisfied with a book half as long. By the time 1985 rolled around, heroin and fickle tastes had undone many of the musicians, which somewhat undercuts the author’s case for the musicians’ enduring influence. (Oddly, two of the era’s enduring acts, the Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode, get relatively short shrift.) But for a while there, everybody looked and sounded great.

A factoid-rich if bloated tribute to an overly maligned moment in pop history.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-571-35343-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more