That this biographical study of composer, polymath, and activist Lou Harrison began as an oral history explains a lot; its cozy tone betrays long exposure not only to octogenarian Harrison himself, but also the dizzying orbit of progressive artists, musical and otherwise, with whom he has come into contact over a long and diverse career. The authors, a musicologist/performer and ethnomusicologist/composer, respectively, do bring marked insight to the occasionally bewildering universe Harrison inhabits, devoting separate chapters to their subject’s researches into, and utilizations of, tonality, instrumentation, and tuning, among other nuts and bolts of musical process that this composer has drastically reconsidered. Harrison’s complex relationship with East Asian music is likewise treated at length, with particular emphasis on his works written for gamelan, of which the variable intonation would become for him a source of fascinated inspiration. With respect to extramusical issues—essential where Harrison is concerned—the authors weave the voices of their many sources to fine effect, finding continuity in his travails and accomplishments on both coasts and exploring the composer’s crucial decision to return to a culturally (and sexually) vibrant California in 1953. The freedoms he encountered there are not only to be found in Harrison’s music—they include a surprisingly sober chapter decoding gay “markers” in his oeuvre—but are evinced, the authors would seem to inply, in the very ubiquity of the music itself. If, then, one can move below the current of obsequy that runs throughout the book, there is much strong scholarship to be found; the authors— appreciation of the many formal risks that underlie Harrison’s eclecticism, as of the deep humanity that drives it, allows for an unusually clear portrait of an artist whose restless pursuit of beauty has driven him from medium to medium, most often beyond the public eye. (20 b&w illustrations, not seen; CD included)

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-19-511022-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?