Sci-fi geeks with a penchant for rock ’n’ stomp, prog excess, and other flavors of pop will enjoy this one.

STRANGE STARS

DAVID BOWIE, POP MUSIC, AND THE DECADE SCI-FI EXPLODED

The mothership connection is clear: Where there’s rock ’n’ roll, science fiction isn’t far away, as Hugo Award winner Heller (Taft 2012, 2012, etc.) deftly demonstrates.

The author was born in 1972, a couple of months after David Bowie’s landmark album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” appeared. That wasn’t Bowie’s first foray into sci-fi; as Heller notes, his career is bracketed and punctuated by tunes devoted to the intrepid Major Tom, who ends up a skeleton encased in a spacesuit with Bowie’s 2015 farewell album, “Blackstar.” It’s a good thing Bowie was on the case, writes the author, for Pink Floyd wasn’t going to get the interplanetary job done, and Neil Young, despite the sci-fi–born “doomsday, time-travel, space-ark” album “After the Gold Rush,” was pretty well earthbound. There’s a lot of yes, but hedging as Heller assembles his catalog of sci-fi rock: ELP may not have been thinking outer-spacey thoughts with “Tarkus,” which, “for all its highbrow musicianship…is hardly the stuff of classic sci-fi,” and X-Ray Spex was more tuned to pop culture than cyberia when Poly Styrene got to caterwauling about the Bionic Man. Still, it’s clear the author has listened to a vast assemblage of music, and readers who don’t know the foundation stories of P-Funk and Devo, Gong and Hawkwind, Kraftwerk and Jefferson Starship, and a whole host of lysergic-and-Asimov–soaked bands will find his tales to be both entertaining and instructive. His explorations sound just the right note, too, as when he unpacks the Deep Purple tune “Space Truckin’ ” to find in it “in essence, Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to Be Wild’ recast for outer-space Hell’s Angels.” Though the thesis can be a little wobbly once taken outside of the 1970s—Chuck Berry didn’t hitch his Caddy to a star, after all, and Elvis, though Martian, was resolutely terrestrial—the book holds up well to argument.

Sci-fi geeks with a penchant for rock ’n’ stomp, prog excess, and other flavors of pop will enjoy this one.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61219-697-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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