A stunning tally of the sacrifices that sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll demand of its mortal instruments.

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SING BACKWARDS AND WEEP

A MEMOIR

The frontman of the Screaming Trees gives a bloody, brawling, dope-fueled tour of his personal battlefields.

By any reckoning, Lanegan should be long dead alongside beloved friends like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Kristen Pfaff of Hole, and Layne Stanley of Alice in Chains. By either miracle or stamina, the author is still alive to offer a blisteringly raw self-portrait of life not just as an excessively self-indulgent rock star, but also a victim of his own hubris. It’s hard to remember in this age of social media, semiclean living, and legalized marijuana, but Seattle circa 1990 was practically a combat zone, thrust into the zeitgeist by the success of grunge rock, especially Nirvana, Soundgarden, and other bands on the Sub Pop label. Lanegan recounts the formation of the Screaming Trees with drummer Mark Pickerel and brothers Gary Lee and Van Conner in the late 1980s, and while their stardom was sudden, the author clearly hasn’t forgotten long, brutal tours in a fetid van, featuring stories that recall Henry Rollins’ Black Flag diary, Get in the Van (1994). There’s plenty of friction behind the music, but the narrative’s primal thread is addiction, from Lanegan’s early alcoholism to a heroin and crack addiction that would later find him dealing to junkies from his Seattle crash pad. His temper would also find him contemplating murdering Courtney Love and beating Liam Gallagher to death backstage. Elsewhere, the missed opportunities are tragic—blowing a gig on the Tonight Show, turning down an invitation to play Nirvana’s fabled MTV Unplugged episode, and ignoring a chance to score a movie. This isn’t just a warts-and-all admission; it’s a blackout- and overdose-rich confessional marked by guilt and shame. It’s also not a redemption song, but like any other train wreck, it’s impossible to look away. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

A stunning tally of the sacrifices that sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll demand of its mortal instruments.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-92280-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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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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