One for the practicing Dylanologist—general readers should approach with caution.

READ REVIEW

BOB DYLAN IN AMERICA

A noted historian tries to shed light on the less-traveled byways in Bob Dylan’s epic journey.

As he explains in his introduction, Wilentz (History/Princeton Univ.; The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008, 2008, etc.) is “historian-in-residence” for Dylan’s website. Here he attempts to situate the musician in a multitude of American musical, cultural and literary contexts. The author begins with a strained and unconvincing stab at tying Dylan to composer Aaron Copland—a better case might have been made for Marc Blitzstein, who is mentioned cursorily—but the second chapter, about the impact of the Beats (specifically, Allen Ginsberg), is more successful. Wilentz then plots a chronological course through several highlights and lowlights of his subject’s career; several chapters expand on previously published essays. The author is at his best when examining such unquestioned diadems as Blonde On Blonde (1966) and the tardily released 1983 song “Blind Willie McTell,” both of which benefit from Wilentz’s access to original session tapes. He is less successful when addressing live performances, including a 1964 solo show at Philharmonic Hall in New York and a 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour stop in New Haven, both of which were attended by the author. Sometimes Wilentz’s arguments become attenuated to near-pointlessness. His numbing readings of the misbegotten films Renaldo and Clara (1978) and Masked and Anonymous (2003) and his labored explication of the roots of Dylan’s recording of “Lone Pilgrim” are especially taxing. The book gains heat with a rousing defense of Dylan’s multitudinous borrowings in his latter-day work, called outright plagiarism by some (including, most recently, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell). Wilentz ends with an apology for the wacky 2009 seasonal album, Christmas in the Heart, though it makes the record no less mystifying. The author is capable of sometimes striking and unexpected insights linking Dylan to American precursors ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Bing Crosby, but his frequently misguided ideas and oft-leaden style weigh down the proceedings.

One for the practicing Dylanologist—general readers should approach with caution.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-52988-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more