HARD RAIN

A DYLAN COMMENTARY

Riley, author of the best study by far of the Beatles' song catalogue (Tell Me Why, 1988), turns now to Bob Dylan—``the most important American rock 'n' roller since Presley''—with impressive, but less consistently persuasive, results. As before, Riley steers clear of biography and simply goes chronologically, album-by-album, song-by-song, through the Dylan oeuvre—including unreleased tracks, bootleg recordings, live concert tapes, and concert films. In fact, unlike most Dylan critics, Riley declines to link the songs to the life, contending (not always convincingly) that Dylan turns his ``intimate trials'' into ``public metaphors''—in contrast to ``self-serving,'' Me- decade types like James Taylor. Throughout, Riley stresses Dylan's humor, the satire implicit in his ``bad'' singing, his manipulations of his persona, and his eclectic roots. There's sharp criticism as well as enthusiasm here: The Times They Are A-Changin' succumbs to ``folkie social preening and black-and-white moralism''; Blonde on Blonde is a ``tour de force of obscurantist rock poetics''; ``I Shall Be Released'' is an ``overpraised and overplayed potboiler.'' Riley applauds Dylan's return to ``roots'' in his work with The Band and his country-ish albums but is pretty much appalled by the ``stringent and pious'' born-again albums. And, in contrast to many hard-core Dylan-ites, Riley finds little evidence of a revitalized Dylan once his ``slide'' begins circa 1978. Not everyone will buy Riley's attempt to view Dylan's weaknesses—the clichÇs, the slurred diction, etc.—as ``postmodernist.'' His dense, imagistic evocations of the songs occasionally become precious or strained. (`` `Idiot Wind' is an emotional soapbox as fearsome and cutting as any of the cutlery that flies in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'') But, with full attention given to Dylan as performer and writer, to cover versions and disciples (Springsteen, Neil Young), and even to other Dylan-commentators, this is an essential book for Dylanologists: comprehensive, knowing, challenging.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 1992

ISBN: 0-394-57889-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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

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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

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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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