A seamless blend of music, history, and biography.



A user-friendly guide to appreciating show tunes.

Composer/conductor Kapilow’s (What Makes It Great: Short Masterpieces, Great Composers, 2011, etc.) popular NPR program, What Makes It Great? inspired this lively and highly informative look at what makes musical show tunes great. Using 16 of his favorite songs by eight of Broadway’s greatest songwriters, he focuses on the “intersection between history and music,” employing a “close-focus musical reading” of each song to demonstrate how they are “deeply meaningful reflections of an evolving America finding its voice.” Kapilow includes basic musical notations to show how the songs’ notes, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms fit together to fashion masterpieces. Each chapter is a gem of explication and informed opinion. Jerome Kern’s “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” from Show Boat, “turns on the relationship between black music and white music.” The “landmark” show, Kapilow writes, “radically widened the dramatic range of the Broadway musical.” The final cadence in Kern’s “All the Things You Are,” from Very Warm for May, a “complete flop,” is “one of the most remarkable in the American Songbook.” George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” from Girl Crazy, with its gay, Jewish, and Native American sensibilities, is the “voice of a southern black community in a work that would ultimately become the quintessential American opera.” Harold Arlen “became famous overnight thanks to the success of a single song,” “Stormy Weather,” from The Cotton Club Parade of 1933. Before The Wizard of Oz film was released in 1939, studio head Louis B. Mayer wanted to cut out Arlen’s iconic “Over the Rainbow.” Kapilow considers Stephen Sondheim “one of the greatest innovators in the history of the musical theater.” The author also discusses Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rogers, and Leonard Bernstein, and the prologue contains useful information about minstrel shows, vaudeville, revues, operetta, ragtime, the blues, and jazz.

A seamless blend of music, history, and biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-029-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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


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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