A charming and informative must-read for music lovers, with a personal touch for fans of ’60s folk and roots music.

RAISED BY MUSICAL MAVERICKS

RECALLING LIFE LESSONS FROM PETE SEEGER, LIGHTNIN’ HOPKINS, DOC WATSON, REV. GARY DAVIS AND OTHERS

Professional musician Greenhill recounts his musical history with his idols in this debut memoir.

Anyone who knows folk and blues music from the late 1950s onward will likely be jealous of Greenhill’s experiences. His father, Manny, was a concert promoter, and a who’s who of luminaries would stay at the family house when they came to town. The young author was already in love with music after his mother, Leona, took him to see Paul Robeson perform a children’s concert. Family friend Pete Seeger helped solidify that love and got him started playing guitar. From then on, he soaked up knowledge at every turn, learning from legends. For instance, Odetta taught him how to slide up the neck for a ringing E7 chord, and the Rev. Gary Davis instructed him on how to wrap his thumb around the neck for a thicker C7 chord (which he helpfully illustrates with a photo of the finger position for aspiring guitarists—one of many attractive photos that accompany the narrative). The family moved from Brooklyn to Boston, and Greenhill fell into the Cambridge folk scene frequented by Taj Mahal, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. He became a professional musician and toured the country, living in New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. Over the course of this book, Greenhill employs a wonderful, elliptical approach to storytelling, following experiences with particular performers over the course of a chapter and not following a strictly chronological course. The stories are very personal and engaging. For instance, Greenhill writes about how Lightnin’ Hopkins rudely spat out the eggs that Greenhill’s mother cooked for him (he found them too runny); the 16-year-old author saw this act as “transgressive” and “wild,” and it coincided with the teen’s taking his driver’s test, which he saw as another form of freedom. There are some technical explanations that guitarists will appreciate more than laypeople, but they never detract from the overall story.

A charming and informative must-read for music lovers, with a personal touch for fans of ’60s folk and roots music.

Pub Date: April 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-64445-5

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Hillgreen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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