The definitive life of the sitar master.

INDIAN SUN

THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF RAVI SHANKAR

A sprawling, ably written biography of Ravi Shankar (1920-2012), marking the centenary of his birth.

It may be jarring to those who remember the sight of Jimi Hendrix grooving to Shankar’s lightning-fast raga at Monterey Pop, but Indian classical music was once the jealously guarded domain of the upper class, “an elite art form that was struggling to survive on the waning patronage of maharajas and rich landowners.” That it spread to international audiences was largely due to Shankar, who toured constantly for decades. As British biographer Craske writes in this musicologically rich, sometimes technical narrative, Shankar started out as a dancer, touring Weimar Germany and performing at Carnegie Hall before taking “the path of most resistance” and entering into a rigorous musical education that lasted for years, practicing for as much as 14 hours per day. He arrived as a master just as two strains of Indian-influenced music were emerging in the West: a classical movement involving Philip Glass and Robert Reich and other composers and a jazz movement headed by John Coltrane. Shankar influenced both, especially Coltrane, and through him gained a following among rock musicians: Robby Krieger of the Doors, who listened to a raga every evening and applied it to songs such as “The End,” and Jimmy Page, for whom Shankar wrote out instructions on how to tune a sitar. No one would be more influenced than George Harrison, who approached Shankar carefully, even reverently. Beatles songs such as “Love You To” were the product, a song in which “the scale has flattened third and seventh notes and is thus in Dorian mode—or, as a north Indian classical musician would put it, Kafi thaat.” In this authoritative, slightly overlong portrait, Shankar emerges as an outwardly gentle perfectionist who was not without complications, especially his restless habit of moving from one romantic partner to another. Of course, fans and admirers won’t be bothered.

The definitive life of the sitar master.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-87488-8

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 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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