Dig it.

The be-boppingest biography!

Not many biographies need instructions for the reader, but Trager (The American Book of the Dead, not reviewed) has mixed together so many voices in this eclectic survey of jazzman Lord Buckley’s life and career that he must begin with an “Author’s Note on Concept and Format.” Here the reader learns to distinguish among fonts and their purposes: 9-point Helvetica indicates “traditional biographical overview and integrating commentary”; 9-point Times Europa roman highlights passages of oral history, whereas 9-point Times Europa italic introduces that speaker; and 9-point Courier Bold acts as the scrapbook font, mimicking the style and spirit of newsprint. These excessive instructions may appear daunting at first, but the fumbling of fonts miraculously breathes a very jazzy sophistication and syncopation into this compendious array of celebratory voices all in awe and homage to the Lord. Retelling the stories of luminaries from Jesus to the Marquis de Sade in a mix of scat, rap, and the King’s English, Buckley left an indelible impression on America’s musical landscape and influenced such artists as Charlie Parker, Elvis Presley, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, and Jerry Garcia. Paying due attention to the necessary details of biography, Trager traces the trajectory of Lord Buckley’s rise to prominence (and his fall into obscurity after his death in 1960) with a careful eye, but the real joy of this account can be found in the many voices recreating the electricity of Buckley’s life and times. The volume concludes with three appendices: a discography and filmography of Buckley’s work, a bibliography and list of sources, and a cast-of-characters index. A CD-compilation of Buckley’s most sensational recordings (not available for review) is also included.

Dig it.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56649-156-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001



Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Close Quickview