Deftly balanced and well-sourced—one of the most solid music-biz bios in recent memory.

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FORTUNE’S FOOL

EDGAR BRONFMAN JR., WARNER MUSIC, AND AN INDUSTRY IN CRISIS

The compellingly told story of the Seagram heir's music-business adventures at Universal and Warner Music, and what went terribly wrong.

Music journalist Goodman (The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, and Springsteen and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce, 1997) takes a deep look at a chaotic couple of decades in the embattled industry, in which Edgar Bronfman Jr. played a central role. Scion of an iron-fisted Canadian distilling clan who dominated the global liquor business, and Bronfman, enamored of show business from youth, tinkered in movie production and songwriting before setting his sights on an executive role in entertainment. In 1995, Seagram acquired 80 percent of MCA from Japanese electronics firm Matsushita. The music division was renamed Universal Music Group and became the biggest label unit in the world with the 1998 acquisition of PolyGram. But Bronfman's ambitions were mocked after the 2000 purchase of Seagram by Vivendi led to near-bankruptcy, thanks to profligate spending by the French firm's chairman Jean-Marie Messier. Bronfman next took control of Warner Music Group, once the U.S. market leader, in a 2004 purchase engineered with private-equity money. Rocked by mismanagement during the ’90s, Warner's fortunes continued to sink in the new millennium, as online piracy exploded, CD sales plummeted and the Internet and mobile bonanzas envisioned by Bronfman never materialized. Goodman tells the story briskly, with total command of both the financial and aesthetic elements of his tale. Especially engrossing is his account of Warner's catastrophic decline under corporate hatchet men Robert Morgado and Michael Fuchs. The executives who played key roles in the latter-day fortunes of Universal and Warner—canny vet Doug Morris, rap-savvy combatants Jimmy Iovine and Lyor Cohen—are all sharply delineated. Bronfman, who has often been raked in the press as a dilettante who grievously mishandled his music assets, receives sympathetic treatment, somewhat belying the book's tart title, and makes a good case for himself in interviews with the author.

Deftly balanced and well-sourced—one of the most solid music-biz bios in recent memory.

Pub Date: July 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7432-6998-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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