Sir Paul once remarked to the author, “We were just four kids trying to earn a living.” They were much, much more, of...

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BEATLES '66

THE REVOLUTIONARY YEAR

A pleasing romp through the Beatles’ annus mirabilis.

The year 1966 was the year of “Revolver,” with the band looking back into “Rubber Soul” and forward into “Sgt. Pepper.” Paul McCartney hung out with Brian Wilson, and sparks—good sparks—flew. Most of all, as London-based music journalist Turner (Popcultured: Thinking Christianly About Style, Media and Entertainment, 2013, etc.) notes in passing, it was a time when John Lennon was happy enough with his mates that he could foresee doing solo projects but keeping the Beatles going: “You need other people for ideas and we all get along fine.” December 1965, when Turner’s account begins, sees the beginning of a new phase that would find the Beatles within the studio and out of the public eye; as he reckons, the Beatles had played 188 gigs in Britain in 1962, but only 50 in 1965, in part because of the demands of worldwide touring but also because they were about to put an end to touring at all, thanks in some measure to some very unpleasant experiences in places like the Philippines. Turner provides some interesting side notes throughout, as with the Beatles’ interactions with Motown and its stars. The account closes a year later, with some interesting divergences; as Turner writes, Lennon and the lads were deep inside “Strawberry Fields Forever,” trying to find the missing element that would turn the song into magic, but broke away from it to record the very different McCartney vehicle “When I’m Sixty-Four,” a song with what Paul called a “rooty tooty” sound. Lennon’s comment about the Beatles’ popularity compared to that of a certain messiah notwithstanding, a splendid time was had by all, and Turner’s account is generally light and lighthearted, if occasionally disjointed.

Sir Paul once remarked to the author, “We were just four kids trying to earn a living.” They were much, much more, of course, and while he breaks little new ground, Turner does a nice job of capturing them at their best.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-247548-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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