Definitely a guilty pleasure, but still a solid contribution to the story of 20th-century popular music.

GIRLS LIKE US

CAROLE KING, JONI MITCHELL, CARLY SIMON--AND THE JOURNEY OF A GENERATION

Half collective biography, half music-industry dish about three singer-songwriters who represented a generation of women on “a course of self-discovery, change, and unhappy confrontation with the limits of change.”

Vanity Fair and Glamour contributor Weller (Dancing at Ciro’s: A Family’s Love, Loss, and Scandal on the Sunset Strip, 2003, etc.) doesn’t veer from the traditional image of her subjects. Carole King is the Brill Building tunesmith whose vinyl warmth reflected earth-mother instincts; Joni Mitchell, the Canadian prairie-born poet/artist whose yearning for love and commitment conflicted with the need for freedom (and its concomitant loneliness) that fueled her greatest songs; and Carly Simon, the neurotic, alarmingly candid and sexy Manhattan chanteuse. The author has pored over numerous documents concerning these three and interviewed scores of current or former lovers, friends, colleagues and relatives. Reflecting this prodigious legwork, many pages are crammed with the longest parentheses this side of Faulkner. Weller’s prose frequently falls into cliché (Mitchell’s “exorcising of demons”), and although she dutifully proclaims her subjects’ stories to be tales of feminine empowerment, she more often sounds like Gossip Girl. The narrative frequently becomes a roundelay of ecstasy, insensitivity, drugs, madness, betrayal and loss at the hands of the men that got away, including James Taylor, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen and Gerry Goffin (King’s first husband and collaborator). Weller neglects the musicianship behind some of the memorable songs of the last half-century: You’d never know, for instance, that Mitchell’s open style of tuning landed her on a Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest guitarists in rock history. Yet the author’s research has unearthed so much little-known material (including King’s “Rick One/Rick Two period”: successive marriages to Idaho mountain men) that her account is essential for understanding how three female superstars survived male chauvinism, romantic disaster and late-career neglect by the music industry to become icons.

Definitely a guilty pleasure, but still a solid contribution to the story of 20th-century popular music.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7434-9147-1

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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