Essential reading for neo-folkies, alt-country fans, blues enthusiasts, and most other stripes of music lover.

ADVENTURES OF A BALLAD HUNTER

A reissue, 70 years after the original publication, of the lightly learned, endlessly interesting memoir by pioneering folklorist Lomax.

“Home on the Range” is a definitively American song and one that most Americans know. We owe that knowledge, and the primacy of the simple but compelling song, to Lomax, who, following a bread-crumb trail of clues, found it embodied in a “drink dispenser, a Negro,” who shooed him away from the San Antonio railyard in which he was sleeping off a drunken binge but then, in the shade of a mesquite tree, sang it the next day. Recording the man on that day in 1908, Lomax had the music transcribed and, as he writes, it “has since won a high place as a typical Western folk tune.” Lomax popularized the song, but he did much more: he discovered Lead Belly on a work farm and helped introduce “Goodnight, Irene” into the national lexicon. Folklorically inclined readers—or, perhaps, fan of roots music—will thrill at Lomax’s accounts of how he happened across songs like “Whoopie ti-yi-yo,” “Sweet Betsy from Pike,” “John Henry,” “Rock Island Line,” and “The Buffalo Skinners.” A case in point is Vera Tartt’s singing “Boll Weevil Blues” and then, on Lomax’s prompting for another blues song, delivering a haunting song: “Another man done gone / from de County Farm; / I didn’t know his name; / He had a long chain on….” Lomax’s wanderings across the country in search of cowboy songs, prison work songs, Appalachian ballads, and the like delivered a huge part of our folkloric repertoire, which were rare gems even then. As he notes, given their druthers, those cowboys expressed “frank disbelief in my undertaking and with little respect for the intelligence of a man undertaking the work of collecting such material” and would just as soon have listened to Tin Pan Alley tunes, but they gave up their knowledge anyway.

Essential reading for neo-folkies, alt-country fans, blues enthusiasts, and most other stripes of music lover.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4773-1371-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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