A light, admiring, illuminating text that will appeal to groupies, general readers, and most others in between.

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DIFFERENT EVERY TIME

THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF ROBERT WYATT

A British music journalist (Guardian, Jazzwise, and others) debuts with an account of the troubled but richly musical life of the legendary drummer, composer, and lyricist—now 70—who has blended jazz, rock, and many other influences into works that both startle and entertain.

O’Dair provides a favorable view of the multitalented Wyatt, though the author does not neglect his subject’s struggles with his libido (his first marriage imploded because of it), depression, and alcohol (which began when he toured with Jimi Hendrix), a substance-abuse battle that damaged his personal relationships. Eventually, Wyatt sobered up. The majority of the book is a discussion of Wyatt’s music. O’Dair divides the book into two “sides” (like a record), and after some introductory pages about Wyatt’s boyhood (which included a family friendship with poet Robert Graves), he launches into the artist’s musical evolution. Adept on more than one instrument, Wyatt was a superb drummer, but his drumming (at least with the full kit) ended in 1973 when he went out a window at a party and suffered a spinal injury that has placed him in a wheelchair ever since. We learn lots of lush details about Wyatt’s involvement in the Soft Machine, his legendary group, in Matching Mole, and his countless appearances on the albums of others (a discography appears in the backmatter). O’Dair shows us how Wyatt was not too fond of live performances—one affecting photo shows him, microphone in hand, singing backstage while others play in the light. We also see a musician whom others were drawn to and a man who was an avowed communist, a position he dropped after Tiananmen Square and other barbarities—though he remains a committed lefty.

A light, admiring, illuminating text that will appeal to groupies, general readers, and most others in between.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59376-616-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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