Well-written, bewitching and subtly dazzling.


Coming of age through popular music.

British novelist and poet Greenlaw (An Irresponsible Age, 2007, etc.) didn’t perform daring feats, conquer cancer, start a business or save anyone; most of her adventures involved sitting in bedrooms listening to records. Nonetheless, her achingly sensitive memoir about trying to grow up through, around and within pop music does not fail to amaze. She presents herself as a young girl bewildered about her place in the world, first as a sensitive child in 1960s London, roiled by hippie and glam crosscurrents, and later as a teenager in a village outside Essex, where her slow ripening coincided with that of the punk movement. During a confusing adolescence, she attempted to fashion a cohesive self through the music she listened to, judiciously acquiring LPs and hungrily listening for furtive signals from the European continent on a little transistor radio. At 14, a pivotal age in her musical autobiography, she exulted in punk style, especially its collapsed gender distinctions. Fortunately, her tolerant, seemingly disinterested parents granted her the freedom (and presumably the funds) to pursue this temporary rebellion, with all its attendant dangers and delights. As the Chi-Lites gave way to the Sex Pistols, Devo and the Damned, she sought but could not regain the easy camaraderie of dancing at the disco with her girlfriends. Though decidedly personal, her story will resonate with those who, like the author, experienced firsthand the sea changes of popular music in the ’70s, as well was with those who discovered the era’s gems later. The taut, lyric thrum of Greenlaw’s prose reflects her poet’s skill. Introducing each chapter with epigraphs selected with care from great works of Western literature, she weaves her quietly intense tale into a much larger narrative.

Well-written, bewitching and subtly dazzling.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-17454-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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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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