THE LAST SULTAN

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AHMET ERTEGUN

Greenfield (A Day in the Life: One Family, the Beautiful People, and the End of the Sixties, 2009, etc.) delivers a compulsively readable, evenhanded biography of Atlantic Records’ founder.

The pampered son of the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Ahmet Ertegun (1923–2006) began promoting jazz concerts as a teen in Washington, D.C., with his older brother. Financed by a loan from his family dentist, he launched Atlantic in late 1947. With original partner Herb Abramson and ex-journalist Jerry Wexler, who joined the firm in 1953, Ertegun led one of the top independent labels of the wide-open ’50s, releasing major R&B hits by Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown and Ray Charles. Presciently diversifying during the ’60s and early ’70s, Ertegun profitably tapped the rock zeitgeist by signing Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash and, in his biggest coup, the Rolling Stones (the subject of two previous books by Greenfield). Though Atlantic was sold to Warner-Seven Arts for $17.5 million in 1967, Ertegun stayed on with the company for nearly four more decades, serving as chairman through a period of unprecedented upheaval in the record industry until his death at 83. Though many of Greenfield’s tales have been spun before—notably in George W.S. Trow’s celebrated 1978 New Yorker profile and a 1991 biography by Dorothy Wade and Justine Picardie—his book is rich in detail and benefits from new interviews with several principal players. The author entertainingly delineates Ertegun’s on-the-money musical taste, flamboyant personal style, antic prank-playing and ability to mingle with personalities ranging from Henry Kissinger to Kid Rock. Though the author obviously admires his subject, he pulls no punches. Ertegun’s bare-knuckled dealings with Abramson and the volatile Wexler, both of whom were pushed out of the company they built, are unflinchingly recorded. His complex, often adversarial relationships with such industry peers as David Geffen and Doug Morris reveal a crafty gamesman who was never willing to surrender the upper hand in business. Ertegun emerges as a man of gargantuan gifts and equally heroic appetites who was ruthlessly adept at looking out for No. 1. A flavorful, balanced piece of music-biz history.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5838-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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

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UNTAMED

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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