Indifferent writing and tut-tutting and shallow criticism conspire to make this of interest mostly to completist collectors.

GEORGE HARRISON

BEHIND THE LOCKED DOOR

New biography of the youngest, gloomiest Beatle.

It may come as news to some fans of the spiritually minded Harrison that, by Thomson’s (Under the Ivy: The Life and Music of Kate Bush, 2010, etc.) account, he was as sexually promiscuous as many of his fellow musicians: “He seduced one young woman days before the Concert for Bangladesh, and even made overtures to another in the wings during the concert itself.” It may come as news to others that Harrison, once pioneering in his blend of Eastern and Western musical traditions, was a sonic fuddy-duddy in his later years: “Rap stinks,” he pronounced, “and techno is humanless music coming out of computers that bring you to madness.” That seems stern for someone who introduced Moogs to Beatlemaniacs and had no qualms about setting Hare Krishna chants against pop backgrounds, but though Harrison never advertised himself as a saint, Thomson seems always surprised that Harrison was, from the earliest age, a smoker, drinker and drugger—in other words, a rock musician. The author covers his subject from cradle to grave, a span of time that has been thoroughly covered by other writers, on some of whom he relies too heavily. The result is a plethora of old news, including the well-worn observation that it was George who taught John Lennon how to tune a guitar. The writing is seldom distinguished, too often pockmarked by forced observations that the refrain of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” “seemed to capture something of Harrison’s growing ambivalence as The Beatles dragged themselves around the United States for the second summer in a row” and that “like an alcoholic with the bottle, no Beatle was ever freed from the grip of the Fab Four.”

Indifferent writing and tut-tutting and shallow criticism conspire to make this of interest mostly to completist collectors.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4683-1065-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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