For devoted Robinson fans only.

NOBODY EVER ASKED ME ABOUT THE GIRLS

WOMEN, MUSIC AND FAME

A longtime music writer empties her files.

Vanity Fair contributing editor Robinson has sorted through decades of interviews with scores of female artists and divided their quotes and anecdotes into chapters entitled "Hair and Makeup," "Fame," Abuse," "Motherhood," "Sex," "Drugs," "Business," “Age,” etc. The premise of the book—that nobody has been interested in stories of stars like Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Beyoncé, Rihanna, or Courtney Love until now—lacks evidence-based support and fails to justify this stitched-together jumble of retreads and outtakes. Though Robinson makes the point that she was never a critic, rather an interviewer, an editor of fan magazines, and a writer of “chatty columns,” she does have her likes and dislikes. She credits Madonna with "ruining the culture" in the 1980s, and she is particularly enraged by Taylor Swift, whom she met as “a fledgling country music singer with buck teeth. The second she heard I was from Vanity Fair, she grabbed my hand with such force that I thought she might break it, and her eyes lasered on me like something out of The Exorcist….The idea that she, or anyone, thought she could play Joni Mitchell in the still unmade ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ movie is laughable. (Joni told me she put a stop to that.)” Even the stars Robinson admires don’t come off well in these pages: Lady Gaga confides, "I feel like if I sleep with someone they're going to take my creativity from me through my vagina.” Sheryl Crow reports that Stevie Nicks told her, "if you ever have kids you'll never write a great rock song again.” The author also quotes Adele's maunderings about motherhood at numbing length. One might conclude that decades-old gossip isn't that interesting, but Ben Widdicombe's recent stylishly written memoir, Gatecrasher, suggests that isn't the problem.

For devoted Robinson fans only.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62779-490-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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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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