A top-notch biography of one of the greatest performers to emerge from a brilliant era.

JANIS

HER LIFE AND MUSIC

A richly detailed, affectionate portrait of the legendary singer.

George-Warren (A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man, 2014, etc.) builds this illuminating biography of Janis Joplin (1943-1970) from interviews with surviving members of her family, band mates, and friends from all eras of her short life. Raised in Port Arthur, Texas, where her father was a refinery engineer, Joplin was a rebel who showed a talent for art. She was an outcast in high school, especially after she began patronizing the segregated venues where she could hear black artists perform live. She had also discovered the Beats, which gave her a picture of a lifestyle she began to emulate. In college, she began to sing with traditional folk groups, showing off a voice inspired by blues legend Bessie Smith. After dropping out, she made her way to San Francisco, where she joined Big Brother and the Holding Company. The most talented of the group, she attracted a devoted following and began to indulge in the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. The author follows her tours with the band as well as her offstage life, which was full of sex and drugs. Touchingly, she still hoped for acceptance by her conservative family, as indicated in her letters home. After two albums, she had outgrown Big Brother and signed a record contract as a single artist with a new backup band. She was as big a star as any in the business, although her erratic lifestyle occasionally caused her to cancel dates. As her last album, Pearl, demonstrated, she continued to grow as an artist, but her death from a heroin overdose at age 27 cut her promising career short. George-Warren gives her subject a sensitive yet honest treatment, showing all dimensions of Joplin’s life without minimizing her self-destructive side. Filled with evocations of the San Francisco music scene at its height, the narrative will give readers new appreciation for Joplin.

A top-notch biography of one of the greatest performers to emerge from a brilliant era.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9310-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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

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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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