Michael Jackson was, indeed, a genius. But he was undoubtedly a troubled genius, as this sweeping biography reveals.

MJ

THE GENIUS OF MICHAEL JACKSON

A critical biography of the King of Pop that tries to keep the art at the forefront.

By the end of his life, Michael Jackson (1958-2009) served as more of a punch line than an embodiment of genius. In this fine book, Rolling Stone contributing editor Knopper (Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age, 2009) does not shy away from prurient details, but he keeps his eye firmly on the reasons why Jackson was revered for so long by so many. Tracing Jackson’s life and career, from his upbringing in Gary, Indiana, to the Jackson 5, solo fame, and through his death, the author reveals a complicated, workaholic, tortured, sensitive soul, a peerless performer who had conquered the entertainment world in the 1980s, especially in the wake of his epochal album “Thriller,” but who by the new millennium had seemingly lost all contact with reality, beset with economic woes and accusations of pedophilia. The musician’s father, Joe Jackson, comes across especially poorly, while Knopper debunks or challenges some of the ugliest myths and rumors surrounding Jackson’s life, especially in his later years. One of the book’s clear strengths is its immediacy, the result of more than 400 interviews. Its biggest weakness is a lack of an introduction or any effort to lay out an analytical framework or explicate an argument. The author is also occasionally sloppy with chronology. Nonetheless, Knopper writes with verve not only about the music business, but also about music and performance. He conveys Jackson’s drive and brilliance while also being cleareyed about his demons. He also captures the inherent tragedy of the arc of Jackson’s biography, something that will come through especially clearly for readers who will almost certainly want to revisit Jackson’s back catalog.

Michael Jackson was, indeed, a genius. But he was undoubtedly a troubled genius, as this sweeping biography reveals.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3037-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

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