Downbeat yet oddly rollicking and compulsively readable.

The sad life and hard times of the queen of mopey folk.

Fifteen-year-old Ian became a cause célèbre in the 1960s as the composer and performer of “Society’s Child,” a folk-pop song that daringly addressed an interracial romance between teenagers. In calm, lucid prose, she charts the bumpy path of her life and career since then as an embattled lesbian singer-songwriter with, apparently, worse luck than the Chicago Cubs. Precociously intelligent, Ian felt alienated from her peers, and this early unhappiness seems to have colored many of her subsequent experiences. As she struggled to advance her career in an often cruel and superficial industry, she was repeatedly cheated and mismanaged, never quite breaking through to superstardom despite such hits as the 1975 wallflower anthem “At Seventeen.” In her account, the author sees herself as a perpetual victim: molested by the family dentist as a child, drugged by a stranger on the streets of New York, sexually manipulated by her therapist and various girlfriends, cheated by business managers, persecuted by the IRS, beaten and threatened with death by a psychotic husband. Serious health problems also repeatedly sidelined Ian, including an incapacitating bout of chronic fatigue syndrome. All of which would suggest she is an epic downer to hang out with. As a narrator, though, she proves excellent company, providing fascinating insights into the craft of songwriting and amusing anecdotes about carousing with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. The personal material is equally gripping, in a soap-operatic way, rife with betrayals, sexual intrigue, danger and madness. As evidenced by many of her lyrics (and second career writing science-fiction stories), Ian is a natural prose stylist with a real knack for pacing and the telling detail. What might have been a dreary catalog of woe is instead a juicily entertaining look at an unusual life in show business.

Downbeat yet oddly rollicking and compulsively readable.

Pub Date: July 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58542-675-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008



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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