An unbalanced, frequently depressive autobiography that primarily focuses on the past, leaving little room for the author’s...

CHINABERRY SIDEWALKS

A MEMOIR

A Grammy-winning singer/songwriter reveals the early genesis of his family, predating a marriage to Rosanne Cash (whose 2010 memoir, Composed, is a can't-miss) and the ascent to musical stardom.

Crowell’s introduction to the world of country music began early in small-town Texas, when banjo chords and Hank Williams records sweetened a childhood embittered by familial discord. Raised in a house without a bedroom of his own, the author was relegated to sleeping in the family home’s creepy front room, where he became an unwilling witness to his parents’ shouting matches and the violence borne from his father’s drinking binges. Frequently frustrated with the inescapable drama, Crowell recalls disrupting his parents’ raucous New Year’s Eve party in 1955; at age five, he frightened guests away by brandishing the rifle hidden in the hall closet. Years later, the family moved to a ramshackle, “post–World War II housing project” in central Texas that was soon decimated by Hurricane Carla. Crowell lovingly and often drolly describes a gassy grandmother, a banjo-playing grandfather, feuding uncles and Cauzette, his strident, God-fearing mother crippled with double dyslexia, epilepsy and a string of heartbreaking miscarriages. In this same tone, the author also discusses life with his boozy father and the distress of a tough childhood. His mother’s hysterically seething religious convictions and frequent nonchalant requests to fetch feminine-hygiene products tempered their embarrassing public “prizefights.” Yet these rough spots are interspersed with summery recollections of a boyhood spent chumming around and banding together with neighborhood mischief makers, and of his father’s drumming lessons, prepping him to play in his band at age 11, then on to higher heights as a budding musician. While Crowell’s narrative becomes a viscerally powerful diary of a boyhood hobbled by a dysfunctional family, his burgeoning love of music and the fruits of that talent get left behind. Could a follow-up be in the works?

An unbalanced, frequently depressive autobiography that primarily focuses on the past, leaving little room for the author’s resoundingly successful present.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-59420-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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