LENNON

THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE MUSIC--THE DEFINITIVE LIFE

After hundreds of books on the former Beatle, is there anything left to say? Surprisingly, yes, and music journalist Riley (Fever: How Rock ’n’ Roll Transformed Gender in America, 2004, etc.) delivers intriguing news and commentary in this incisive biography.

The news comes mostly in the form of fresh insights, some closely argued, some merely observed in passing. On the latter score, the author briefly considers Lennon’s role in what might be thought of as a virtual British Empire. The Windsors may have lost the real one, but thanks to the Beatles and kindred acts, Britain “lay claim to a new cultural empire, with significance far beyond its borders.” Despite recent boneheaded claims that Lennon was a closet Reaganite, Riley shows that Lennon was no deliberate imperialist—Paul McCartney, maybe, who has had to live under the long heroic shadow cast on Lennon after his murder, and who now has to “endorse his sainthood, lest he be disrespectful of the dead.” The author finds true significance in the partnership of Lennon and McCartney, which, for all their protestations, was a true two-way street. Moreover, he is quick to observe the little accidents out of which history is made—for instance, the Mellotron keyboard, the toy-loving Lennon’s “latest gadget,” too big to fit inside his apartment, on which McCartney casually tinkled notes that would shape one of Lennon’s best-known songs, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Riley is much more respectful of Yoko Ono than have been many previous biographers, more forgiving of McCartney, more sympathetic even to Lennon, who can’t have been easy to live or work with. He is also attentive to others of great but sometimes unsung influence in Lennon’s life—not just Mimi and Julia, but also George Harrison, who helped shape the Beatles’ sound more profoundly than he’s often given credit for. Lennon had what Riley characterizes as “another kind of mind,” and his book is a careful exploration of the man’s musical genius, as well as his many shortcomings in the realm of personal relations. Essential for Lennon fans, and one of the most thorough yet accessible rock biographies to appear in recent years.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2452-0

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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