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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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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