A helpful guided tour that shows how music is the perfect art form in which to “dance between genders.”

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020

GLITTER UP THE DARK

HOW POP MUSIC BROKE THE BINARY

An exploration of how “music shelters gender rebellion from those who seek to abolish it.”

Popular music has always been fertile ground for expressions of sexual nonconformity, and queer and trans musicians have often ventured well beyond the gender binary—a construct, notes Geffen, that “has always limped along in pieces, easily cracked by a brief foray into the historical record.” In her debut book, the author traces gender transgression in pop music back to its roots in the blues. In the early 20th century, blues singers Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith challenged heterosexual norms in their lyrics, which feature “coded” references to gay love. From its very beginnings, Black American music included queer sexuality, and there would have been no Elvis or the Beatles without Little Richard first. Geffen capably describes musicians' strategies for breaking free of gender expectations up through the present day, with chapters on punk; glam rock; “post-punk, goth, and industrial”; Prince (yes, his own chapter); synthpop; disco and house music; hip-hop; “women’s music and riot grrrl”; grunge; and “the formless internet.” Androgyny and the challenging of gender norms are constant themes. Some readers may quibble with the author’s selections—seven pages on arty provocateur Genesis P-Orridge but only two for Morrissey—and there are glaring omissions: The London Suede and Owen Pallett leap to mind. Nonetheless, Geffen's genuine enthusiasm for transgressive pop music is clear and infectious, and the chapters on punk and glam rock (Ziggy Stardust–era David Bowie "carried androgyny into the mainstream on the strength of his weird charisma") are true standouts. The book is full of insightful observations, such as the pivotal role that Wendy Carlos and Pauline Oliveros played in the development of electronic music. Likely because they are not considered pop music, genres such as gospel, classical, and jazz go largely unaddressed. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

A helpful guided tour that shows how music is the perfect art form in which to “dance between genders.”

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4773-1878-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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