Extremely knowledgeable about the rock music scene, Norman tells Clapton’s story with verve and insight.



The renowned guitar superhero emerges as “supersurvivor” in this authoritative biography.

In the latest of his long list of accomplished rock biographies, novelist and playwright Norman (Paul McCartney: The Life, 2016, etc.) turns to Eric Clapton (b. 1945). The author concluded that Clapton’s own autobiography was the only “formidable deterrent” to writing one, but he felt it withheld “as much as it revealed.” Written with Clapton’s approval and access to family members and close friends, Norman’s fine biography, both objective and sympathetic, envisions Clapton as “one of the most thoroughly dissolute rockers of olden times” who became the “most thoroughly reformed.” His unmarried mother asked her mother, Rose, to adopt baby Eric, and he grew up believing her to be his mother. The music of Buddy Holly impressed him mightily, and Clapton was much taken by Holly’s Fender Stratocaster: “That’s the future. That’s what I want.” His doting grandmother bought him a basic guitar, and he practiced by listening to records. At the heart of the book is Clapton’s constant quest for the right band and the right guitars to get the right blues sound. After playing with fledging bands like the Roosters and Engineers, he got his big break with the Yardbirds, famous for their impromptu “rave-ups.” During this “CLAPTON IS GOD” (as a London graffito read) period, he got his famous nickname, “Slow-handclapton.” More bands followed, including John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith. Clapton also changed girlfriends as often as he changed bands. Norman describes his subject as a notorious “womaniser on the scale of Mick Jagger, a sex addict before the term was invented.” George Harrison was Clapton’s best friend, but he seduced and later married Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd; Clapton wrote “Layla” for her. Norman discusses in detail Clapton’s yearslong, devastating addictions to heroin and alcohol and provides countless fascinating stories about his fellow rockers.

Extremely knowledgeable about the rock music scene, Norman tells Clapton’s story with verve and insight.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-56043-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2018

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

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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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