A disappointingly superficial account of the life of one of popular music’s elder statesmen. Veteran pop-music critic Lydon (Writing and Life, 1995, etc.) follows Charles’s journey from his childhood in Florida, where he lost his brother and mother as well as his sight, by the age of 15, his life at a school for deaf and blind children (where he distinguished himself with both his intelligence and his mischief), and the launch of his professional career in Seattle at age 17. While in Seattle, Charles meets an even younger Quincy Jones and forms an extremely important, lifelong friendship. Lydon chronicles Charles’s juggernaut to fame and his simultaneous descent into heroin addiction in the 1950s and ’60s, through his hibernation during the 1970s, and finally his political appearances singing “America the Beautiful” at party conventions and his jingles in the cola wars. Drug arrests and subsequent litigation form a substantial part of Lydon’s narrative. Finally given an ultimatum by a judge (he could choose prison or his career), Charles kicks his habit. However, as Lydon describes it, alcoholism remains a daily part of Charles’s life, and Lydon is surprisingly blasÇ about the subject, noting that Charles drinks all day long but never showing the musician seeking treatment or even acknowledging that his daily drinking is a problem. Lydon is a facile writer, but his failure to delve into the meatier parts of Charles’s life—particularly his relationships with his wives and children—in any depth is disappointing. Similarly, Charles’s progression to blindness over several years is covered in only a couple of pages. It’s been 20 years since Charles’s autobiography was published; time was ripe for a new look at his life. Ironically, Lydon notes that the autobiography has “only one fully fleshed-out character: Brother Ray”; the same could be said for his own work. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 1999

ISBN: 1-57322-132-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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 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 19, 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...


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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