An affectionate homage to an indisputably great song, one that readers will listen to with new ears.

A lively biography of the song that Bob Dylan once called the greatest ever written.

Musical maven and GQ editor-in-chief Jones (David Bowie: A Life, 2017, etc.) is plainly smitten by Jimmy Webb’s unlikely story of a telephone repairman who rides a cherry picker into the sky in order to attend to malfunctioning wires, which the author calls “the first existential country song.” That may or may not be true, but it is unforgettable, one of the city-named story-songs that propelled Glen Campbell to fame and a natural successor to Webb and Campbell’s previous hit, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Webb considered “Lineman” incomplete when he gave it to Campbell, and indeed it is light on lyrics, certainly as compared to his opus, “MacArthur Park.” Campbell ran with it, turning to the extraordinary talents of the session cohort called the Wrecking Crew, with bass player Carol Kaye doing beyond-the-call-of-duty work with her improvised introduction. One flaw that Jones uncovers: Webb had the hero of the song fixing the wrong kind of wire—a high-tension line can experience an overload but not a telephone line, leading him to remark ruefully, “it’s very hard to explain poetic license to a union member.” Still, poetic license aside, the song is instantly recognizable and consistently makes critics’ lists of the best pop songs of its era, if not of all time. Jones focuses ably on meaning and affect, more as they have to do with the lyrics than with the unusual chord pattern, which makes the song so distinctive; a little more attention to the structure of the music and how it evolved would have pleased the hearts of geeks. Even so, the author’s account satisfies, without a wasted word or the usual clichés of pop-culture writing and with plenty of quotations from the principals involved in making the song an enduring hit.

An affectionate homage to an indisputably great song, one that readers will listen to with new ears.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-35340-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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