An absorbing and layered study of “one of the most influential voices in Western popular culture.”

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THE LIFE OF PAUL SIMON

A biography of the singer/songwriter who helped define the cultural landscape of the 1960s as half of the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel and who later achieved massive success as a solo artist.

At an impromptu school assembly in 1952, Paul Simon (b. 1941) first heard his classmate Art Garfunkel sing, though they didn’t know each other at the time. The experience made an impression on the young Simon, who saw in Garfunkel his nascent desire to become a singer and star. As freelance journalist and veteran music writer Carlin (Bruce, 2012, etc.) observes in his nuanced, fascinating portrait, Simon’s friendship with Garfunkel would be the defining relationship of his life, both professionally and personally. Their brotherly and often contentious friendship would see them rise during the 1960s from humble wannabes with second lives in law school and a graduate program in mathematics to pop superstars. Growing up in a musical household—his father, Louis, was a professional bass player—Simon’s musical interests were encouraged, and he received early lessons in the business, which would influence his shrewd approach to making deals. As Carlin notes, however, Louis would become resentful of his son’s success and would harangue him to give up his career to become a teacher despite being a world-renowned pop star. This feeling of inferiority would fuel Simon’s lifelong identity crisis, as he adopted many pseudonyms throughout his career, notably Jerry Landis, and constantly struggled with fame and his own abilities. Carlin expertly tracks Simon’s professional career, from the earliest days with Garfunkel when they were finding their footing as performers, through the climax of their career as a band with their 1970 album “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” to Simon’s solo artistic peak with the 1986 release of “Graceland.” Simon’s music career defies easy categorization—much as his relationship with Garfunkel does—but in Carlin’s portrayal, his legacy as an innovative songwriter and musician is undeniable.

An absorbing and layered study of “one of the most influential voices in Western popular culture.”

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-034-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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