An attempt to offer critical perspective on music that the author loves uncritically.

Vogel’s goal is worthy: to rescue Jackson’s artistic legacy from the distortions of the tabloid press, a celebrity-obsessed culture and the aftershocks of his shocking death. Terming his subject “the archetypical misunderstood artist,” the author provides comprehensive context, detail and analysis of every Jackson solo album and every individual track (sometimes pages worth on a single song), as well as cuts that have remained unreleased. Vogel admits that he “frequently felt out of my depth” and “quickly realized that my role would necessarily be as much editor as author.” The research is impressive, but the book would have benefited from better editing and more critical nuance. As he quotes a half-dozen or more reviews of an album (or track), he embraces those that are positive and discredits anything negative as an inability to listen “objectively,” whatever that might mean in the field of criticism. His own escalation of superlatives and comparisons approaches delirium: “Off the Wall did for R&B what the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds did for rock”; “ ‘Man in the Mirror’ stands with classics such as John Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Goin’ On,” and the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ as one of the great social anthems of the modern age.” By the time readers reach this statement—“HIStory makes a strong case for being Jackson’s magnum opus—and one of the best albums by any artist in the 1990s”—the author’s perspective has become increasingly difficult to trust; it’s as if Vogel feels that overstatement is a necessary corrective to the critical slights the artist has suffered. Some fans will appreciate the author’s seriousness of purpose (which others will find tedious), but the book has more value as a reference work than a critical study.


Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4027-7938-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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


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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