Not a pedestrian stroll past the crooner’s art, but frequently a pleasurable dance around some real pop culture. (20 b&w...

YOU CALL IT MADNESS

THE SENSUOUS SONG OF THE CROON

Told with feverish scat, the story of crooners in the days when vaudeville transformed itself into radio and the movies learned to talk, features a bio of Russ Columbo backed by Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallée, and an all-star supporting cast.

Music writer Kaye offers a hyperactive text, smooth as pomade, slick as showbiz. Fast-talking, over the top, he spills all he knows in extravagant novelistic style, often shifting tempo from past tense to present and devising Winchell-esque portmanteaus (“revusicals” in “glitteration”). It’s a bravura performance, and Kaye is adroit about music. A “thrush” tries to “fit a square peg into the song’s round voice box,” he notes, and a tenor holds his voice “stiffly in the neck, starched, like a collar.” There are fleeting snapshots of Rhythm Boy Crosby, the onetime drunk-tank inhabitant, whistling through the bridges; and cheerleader Vallée, the sometime vagabond lover, singing through his megaphone. There are Betty Boop and Flo Ziegfeld, Al Jolson and Paul Whiteman, Harry Richman, Benny Goodman, Freddy Chopin, Moran and Mack. Wandering throughout is Columbo, at the Brooklyn Paramount competing with Crosby playing Broadway’s Paramount; Columbo manipulated by Con, his con-artist manager; Columbo and the love of his life, Carole Lombard; Columbo suffering “death’s aloneliness,” silenced at 26, his music later recalled in a commemorative album by Tiny Tim. It’s true showbiz nostalgia, vamping and syncopated, punctuated regularly with really short sentences. Rim shots. A word. It’s a symphony of yellowed Variety clips, old sheet music, recording-studio notes, and movie dialogue. What might have been a lot of moonshine coming over a mountain of words ultimately works like a loving riff in a June moon canoe down a stream of consciousness.

Not a pedestrian stroll past the crooner’s art, but frequently a pleasurable dance around some real pop culture. (20 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2004

ISBN: 0-679-46308-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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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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