Relentlessly enjoyable, and enhanced by the author’s absolute refusal to keep even a shred of his dignity intact.

SAINT MORRISSEY

A PORTRAIT OF THIS CHARMING MAN BY AN ALARMING FAN

Alternative music’s most obsessed-about icon gets the business from an appropriately obsessed fan.

Barely two pages into this “psychobio” of the former lead signer of The Smiths, the author opines, “Arguably, poor Oscar [Wilde] was merely an early, failed, and somewhat overweight prototype for Morrissey,” and not many more before he declares, “ ‘The Smiths’ is the greatest of the Smiths’ albums, making it, of course, the Greatest Album of All Time.” There’s a wink and a nudge here, of course: Simpson, known in his native Britain as a wickedly funny, out-there gay satirist, is well aware of just how unhinged—or, yes, “alarming”—he is going to sound to those not initiated into the cult of Morrissey, and he plays off that to an extent. But he still truly thinks that Morrissey is just about the best thing to have hit modern music since . . . well, anyone. To many, The Smiths was just a band of mopey Brits with a classically handsome, sexually ambiguous singer crooning about heartache over jangling guitars. But to a vociferous minority, Morrissey became an icon, an “anti-pop idol” in Simpson’s words; to this day, his solo concerts are mobbed by screaming fans. The author is not so concerned with rehashing the ups and downs of a landmark alternative band as he is with dissecting Morrissey himself: what makes the bookish, vegetarian, celibate Irish-Catholic from Manchester tick, and what draws his fans to him. No matter how hard he digs into the perverse appeal of a highly sexualized star who renounces sex itself, Simpson doesn’t quite get an answer, but along the way he is able to fire off plenty of tart darts at the pop-historical landscape, continually topping one ludicrously overreaching announcement (“Morrissey was the real mad lad holding the world hostage at the point of a pop single”) with another.

Relentlessly enjoyable, and enhanced by the author’s absolute refusal to keep even a shred of his dignity intact.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-7690-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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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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