A nontraditional biography that sings despite its studious blocks of theory-heavy dissection.



The iconic jazz musician receives an adoring biography as unconventional and compelling as its subject.

As music journalist Clark notes, Dave Brubeck (1920-2012), “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced…optimistic, life-enhancing art.” The author eschews a standard, chronological narrative in favor of a forensic analysis of classic Brubeck cuts like “Take Five,” “Blue Rondo á la Turk,” “Unsquare Dance,” and many more. Just as many jazz greats used modest chord progressions to underpin their masterpieces, Clark employs a throughline of his own involving the 10 days he spent interviewing Brubeck on tour in the spring of 2003 to achieve something beyond the run-of-the-mill biography. The author is “riffing” like his musical idols when he writes about Brubeck’s penchant for “polytonality” and “polyrhythms.” A typical example of his exhaustive musing: “Laying arpeggios on thick, Brubeck recapped his theme as Benjamin’s ‘arco’ bass seesawed through the texture, spiraling around the rich chromaticism with an intense throbbing tone that projected like a whole section of cellos.” However fascinating his subject’s artistry may be, delving so deeply into the DNA of Brubeck’s decadeslong musical catalog does have the potential to alienate more casual music fans. Thankfully, Clark also hits all the right biographical notes along the way, including Brubeck’s time in the Army; his early days studying at Mills College in Oakland under the tutelage of Darius Milhaud; his efforts to steer clear of mobster Morris Levy, who was heavily involved in the 1950s jazz scene; his defiance of Jim Crow segregation in the South; and his deft leading of his Dave Brubeck Quartet to superstardom. The mix of musicology and biography allows Clark to paint an imitate portrait of Brubeck as a man of great personal and artistic integrity, and that may not have been possible if the author had simply stuck to a traditional score.

A nontraditional biography that sings despite its studious blocks of theory-heavy dissection.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-92164-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


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

Did you like this book?