An effective biography that demonstrates Odetta’s wide, deep legacy.



One of the leading voices of the mid-20th-century folk revival receives her biographical due.

In a narrative that is both effectively researched and engagingly readable, Zack (Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis, 2015) is convincing in his argument that Odetta Holmes (1930-2008) has been underappreciated for too long, and he shows how and why her reign as the “Queen of Folk” was over before folk music hit its commercial peak. When folk music, progressive politics, and the civil rights movement were forging a unity of conviction in the 1950s, the young Odetta was clearly the right artist at the right time, with a moral fervor in her powerful lower register that could bring audiences to their knees. She wasn’t threatening in the manner of ex-convict Lead Belly, and she hadn’t suffered the blacklisting taint of Pete Seeger and other more overtly leftist singers. With her regal bearing and impressive vocal talents, Odetta proved inspirational to audiences and fellow artists alike. “When I first heard her…my knees went to jelly,” said Joan Baez, who then rose to fame as younger white performers began to find the commercial success that had eclipsed anything Odetta had achieved—and deserved. Their success made her bitter, and she felt that even her longtime manager, Albert Grossman, had betrayed her. Odetta charged that as the first client managed by the man who would become a legend with a stable including Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary, he “built his business on my back and I never benefited from it.” Stronger management might well have nurtured her potential as an actress and helped her to navigate the sea changes of the 1970s through the end of the century, when her performing draw diminished and her recording career stalled. She also battled alcohol addiction and was often branded as difficult offstage. Regardless of her struggles, Zack brings her back into the spotlight.

An effective biography that demonstrates Odetta’s wide, deep legacy.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8070-3532-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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 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...


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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