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

DAVE BRUBECK

A LIFE IN TIME

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

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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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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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