A powerful biography that will leave fans with a newfound respect for the Man in Black.

CITIZEN CASH

THE POLITICAL LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHNNY CASH

Rather than a conventional biography, cultural historian Foley digs deep into the political views of the iconic musician.

Johnny Cash (1932-2003) rarely shied away from discussing politics. In fact, he devoted much of his musical career to spotlighting issues faced by minorities and other groups that he felt were underrepresented. However, as the author demonstrates, Cash was often misunderstood. At times, his views appeared incongruent to members of his audience, such as when he paid tribute to Confederate soldiers and endorsed equality for Black Americans in the same episode of his eponymous show or when he publicly expressed support for Nixon’s handling of Vietnam while at the same time calling for peace. In this deeply researched, unique examination, Foley looks at the many reasons Cash was drawn to particular issues: Cash “rarely took ‘stands’ on political issues in conventional ways; instead, he approached each issue based on feeling.” Cash released several concept albums that largely focused on marginalized groups—e.g., Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. Since his youth, he had been told that his ancestry included Cherokee, but he later learned that it wasn’t true. Nonetheless, his songs and performances continued to reflect great sympathy for the plight of Indigenous people. “Whether Cherokee blood pumped from his heart or not did not really matter,” writes Foley. “In the marginalized lives of Native peoples, Cash saw something of his own experience as a poor kid.” Cash was also well known as a strong advocate for prison reform, a stance made widely known via his At Folsom Prisonand At San Quentinalbums. Furthermore, given his childhood as “an Arkansas farm boy,” he appeared as part of the supergroup known as the Highwaymen when Willie Nelson organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985. With sufficient detail and a gift for storytelling, Foley explores these and many other aspects of Cash’s complex life.

A powerful biography that will leave fans with a newfound respect for the Man in Black.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9957-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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