Could be more lucidly presented, but Selvin’s depth of knowledge is impressive and his enthusiasm contagious.



Vivid look at the burgeoning Los Angeles rock-and-roll scene of the late 1950s and early ’60s.

The exuberant music created by groups like the Beach Boys with upstart record producers like Phil Spector reflected “a time and place [that] felt like it had been made for teenagers,” asserts veteran rock writer Selvin. Far from the established music-business center in New York City, kids barely out of high school basically stumbled into the record-making process through their love for rhythm and blues and the growing sense that they were part of a special culture. Avatars of this culture identified in the first chapter include blond, handsome Jan Berry, a rebellious rich kid whose taste for fast cars would later be voiced in the songs of his duo, Jan and Dean; and his University High School classmate Kathy Kohner, whose ecstatic diary entries about breaking into the male-dominated world of surfing inspired her screenwriter father to write a bestselling novel (later made into a movie) titled with her nickname: Gidget.Berry and Kohner were among those who created a “modern mythology…unique to the inspirations and aspirations of California,” writes Selvin. Unfortunately, they are also only two of the deluge of names he showers on readers in the first few chapters—fly-by-night record companies, songwriters, A&R men, shady managers, et al.—in such abundance that only the most fanatical rock history aficionado could keep them all straight. The confusion eases as the narrative progresses through such paradigm-setting hits as “Surf City” and “He’s a Rebel,” and Selvin’s less-than-elegant prose works well to capture the seat-of-the-pants brio of California record production. As the political and cultural mood darkened in the mid-’60s, songs like “Eve of Destruction” reflected a new seriousness and curtailed the sun-and-fun phase of California rock. The author uses Berry’s cataclysmic 1966 car crash, followed by recovery to an altered, more limited life, as an emblematic finale.

Could be more lucidly presented, but Selvin’s depth of knowledge is impressive and his enthusiasm contagious.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4870-0721-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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