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

HOLLYWOOD EDEN

ELECTRIC GUITARS, FAST CARS, AND THE MYTH OF THE CALIFORNIA PARADISE

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: N/A

Page Count: 320

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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 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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