TOM WAITS ON TOM WAITS

INTERVIEWS AND ENCOUNTERS

The singer-songwriter-actor-playwright with a rare gift of gab gets a second anthology of interviews.

Given the richness of Tom Waits’ nearly 40-year career and his unique gifts as a word-drunk raconteur, a compilation of old interviews with the musician is a natural. In fact, editor Maher (Jack Kerouac’s American Journey, 2007, etc.) has been beaten to the punch by Mac Montandon’s Innocent When You Dream: The Tom Waits Reader (2005), which brought together many of the best pieces on Waits from top-flight periodicals. This book contains lesser stuff. Maher admits in his introduction that he couldn’t afford to pay the permission fees for stories from higher-profile magazines. Thus, his compilation leans on B-team writers and work from sometimes obscure (and often now-defunct) music rags and alternative weeklies. Organized by album-release cycle, Maher’s anthology attains a repetitive rhythm in the early going, which recounts the performer’s 1970s development as the jazzy beat/boho poet laureate of the American underside; the narrative shifts gears after Waits’ 1980 marriage to Kathleen Brennan, who became his writing collaborator and helped steer his music into riskier, more cacophonous realms. The package is messily edited, with flat-footed interstitial material. Writers’ expositions of the vocalist’s life and career, and some of Waits’ gags, incessantly duplicate one another. British journalists—including Sylvie Simmons, Mick Brown, Pete Silverton—seem to fare best with Waits. Interestingly, some of the most revealing American interviews are with radio hosts: L.A. folk DJs Roz and Howard Larman and Philadelphia veteran Michael Tearson. But many of the interrogators are unable to hit their subject’s obfuscating curve balls. Some, like Spin magazine’s insufferable Bart Bull, flash plenty of sub–Lester Bangs style to zero effect. The least of the material is perplexingly culled from press kits for record and movie projects. Though always entertaining, Waits conceals more than he exposes; as he notes to Amanda Petrusich in the book’s most telling quote, “The fact is most of the things that people know about me are made up. My own life is backstage.” Some entertaining yarns lurk among a great deal of garrulous dross.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-56976-312-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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