A witty rock memoir delivered with arty, aphoristic verve.



The former Soul Coughing frontman recalls moments from a musician’s life that are funny, infuriating, or just too strange not to share.

Doughty’s debut, The Book of Drugs (2012), was a relatively conventional addiction memoir, relating how his appetite for narcotics was exacerbated by his status as a famous-ish 1990s bandleader. In this follow-up, the author dispenses with an extended narrative arc and instead constructs the book out of brief anecdotes, some as short as a paragraph, relating tiny epiphanies and disappointments. Many of them turn on the phrase “the world was absolutely new,” usually relating to moments of musical revelation—e.g. hearing Nirvana and the Replacements for the first time or playing with an idol like the MC5’s Wayne Kramer. But Doughty’s earnest proclamations of glowing fandom have a counterweight in his seeming knack for attracting low-grade calamities into his life. There’s the roommate who climbed onto a fifth-story ledge, drunk; the producer of a Soul Coughing best-of album who sowed discord with his estranged band mates; a supposedly game-changing invitation to write a song for an X-Files soundtrack that ultimately fizzled; moments of disorientation in Kyoto, Shanghai, and a Las Vegas strip club’s Champagne Room. It’s all relatively inconsequential stuff in isolation, but Doughty has a finely honed, smirking style of observation that justifies most of the vignettes: The strip club’s bathroom was “as bright and cold as a Whole Foods”; a Tinder date “had written her profile in half-disguised twelve-step argot”; Shanghai’s skyscrapers “look like they were drawn on a coaster.” Together, the book accrues an entertainingly bemused, why-is-this-happening-to-me vibe, and Doughty’s terseness evokes the simple quirkiness of a Lydia Davis short story. Fans will appreciate his stories of struggling to finish his breakthrough solo album, Haughty Melodic, but he’s a talented observer in many contexts.

A witty rock memoir delivered with arty, aphoristic verve.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-82531-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 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 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 self-aware confessional from a successful and controversial musician.


The Grammy-winning Irish singer/songwriter looks back on her eventful life.

Promising candor and clarity, O’Connor (b. 1966) opens with a caveat that her story only details lucid periods of her life when she was psychologically “present.” Omitting hazy years in which she drifted off “somewhere else inside myself”—material some readers may wish she included—the author shares pivotal milestones (raising four children) and entertaining anecdotes. O’Connor vividly recalls an abusive Catholic childhood in Dublin with a cruel, unstable mother. As a rebellious teenager, she was sent to a reform asylum, where her love for music became the ultimate refuge, leading to band gigs and eventually a record deal in London in 1985. The Lion and the Cobra achieved gold status, and O’Connor describes the development of her persona: shaved head, baggy clothing, and stormy, antagonistic, always forthright demeanor. The author addresses her mental health challenges and experimentation with sex and drugs (“In the locked ward where they put you if you’re suicidal, there’s more class A drugs than in Shane MacGowan’s dressing room”) as well as two iconic moments in her career: her smash-hit cover of the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U” and her notorious performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, when she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II. “A lot of people say or think that tearing up the pope’s photo derailed my career. That’s not how I feel about it,” she writes. Rather, it allowed her to return to her roots as a live performer instead of remaining on the pop-star trajectory (“you have to be a good girl for that”). In cathartic sections, O’Connor considers the era leading up to that appearance as a personal death, with the years following a kind of “rebirth.” Though she touches on her agoraphobia and later psychological issues, with which many of her fans will be familiar, the final third of the memoir sputters somewhat, growing less revelatory than earlier passages.

A self-aware confessional from a successful and controversial musician.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-42388-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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