This is a solid, thorough, well-researched and highly readable biography of Bob Hope.
I grew up watching the early Hope movies on television and seeinThis is a solid, thorough, well-researched and highly readable biography of Bob Hope.
I grew up watching the early Hope movies on television and seeing his TV specials. So Hope was a familiar TV presence for me. Zoglin's biography offers a complete view of Hope's professional career, including his vaudeville background, his radio and Broadway successes and his concert performance career. The book also covers his personal life.
Here are my criticisms of the book:
First, I was initially interested in this book because I was aware of the fact that, through investments in Los Angeles area real estate, Hope became fabulously wealthy. According to Zoglin, at one point late in his career, his net worth was about $150 Million and, upon his death the estate was worth $300 Million. I wanted to learn more about how he started investing in real estate, how he decided to buy, etc. Unfortunately, the book gives short shrift to this aspect of his life.
Second, Zoglin points out that the quality of Hope's movies declined through the 50's and 60's, but doesn't explain why this was so. For a guy such as Hope, who was very active in the making and promotion of his movies and his other works, this fact begs for some explanation, but Zoglin doesn't oblige.
These are relatively modest criticisms of what is otherwise a very well-done and entertaining biography....more
This, the third in Perlstein's series of books about the rise of modern conservatism in the U.S., is the weakest of the three. As indicated in the subThis, the third in Perlstein's series of books about the rise of modern conservatism in the U.S., is the weakest of the three. As indicated in the subtitle, it's principal focus is Nixon's downfall and Reagan's rise. And the book is valuable in that it presents a useful summary of Watergate, the Watergate hearings and Nixon's crash and burn, and a useful history of the battle for the Republican nomination for President in 1976 between Ford and Reagan.
Here are what I see as the problems:
In addition to the two principal subjects, Perlstein also attempts to cover the Democratic race, ultimately won by Jimmy Carter, and broadly the social and cultural changes taking place in the U.S. It's too much, particularly his coverage of society. Perlstein fills the book with a lot of newspaper headlines, trends, anecdotes, etc. He covers the est movement at some length, for no apparent reason. There are other detours of this sort. I found myself skipping through a lot of this.
The coverage of Carter is somewhat interesting, although it probably deserves its own book. My problem with it is that it really was irrelevant to Perlstein's mission here and therefore just seemed like a needless distraction.
Finally, Perlstein includes a fairly lengthy (although short of book-length) biography of Reagan, broken into several different sections included along the way. It's interesting, although again probably more than really necessary for this book. Perlstein brings forth just about every negative anecdote and fact about Reagan, nearly every documented false statement and baseless story told by Reagan over the years. While it's interesting reading, Perlstein's obvious dislike of and disdain for Reagan show through and make this seem less objective than it really is. He does himself and his readers a disservice here by not finding a slightly more objective tone.
One of the really interesting things about this book is that, in his portrayal of the New Right, he shows how similar it was then to the rightwing now. Same issues, same overheated rhetoric, same basic dishonesty....more
About 50 pages into this book, I was pretty sure that I would be rating it a 2 or 3 stars at best. The tone was snarky, the situation felt too derivatAbout 50 pages into this book, I was pretty sure that I would be rating it a 2 or 3 stars at best. The tone was snarky, the situation felt too derivative, and I didn't but the premise that so many of the people from the narrator's past still lived in the same small town. The style was a bit off-putting--too self-consciously writerly in his descriptions, too wrapped up in laying out the great sentence.
But gradually, the writing grew warmer and felt more genuine, real emotion emerged, and the mix of humor and pathos felt about right. Despite my initial misgivings, I very much enjoyed it and was ultimately moved by it. There are still some obvious flaws--the narrator's "coming of age" is a little too facile and not fully supported by the underlying events of the novel, the narrator's 17-year estrangement from his father doesn't make much sense, etc. ...more
This is a solid history, encompassing two aspects of World War I. The first is a good summary of the lead-up to the war. The second is a history of thThis is a solid history, encompassing two aspects of World War I. The first is a good summary of the lead-up to the war. The second is a history of the first 5 months of the war, from August through December 1914, focusing on the military history. In this latter part of the book (which, to be clear, takes up the majority of the text), Hastings addresses the strategy and battle action at both the leadership level and the participant level. ...more
This is an excellent and fairly detailed history of the subject. I particularly appreciated Morris' description of the histories of both the Normans iThis is an excellent and fairly detailed history of the subject. I particularly appreciated Morris' description of the histories of both the Normans in Normandy and the English in the period just prior to the Norman invasion. The part of the book dealing with the aftermath is also very informative but somewhat tedious.
The book has been criticized by other readers for sacrificing narrative simplicity in favor of excessive discussion of sources. To some extent this is a fair criticism. However, since the sources for this period do appear to be few in number and of questionable reliability, a simple narrative is impossible; one must frequently balance competing sources to explain what is reasonably reliable and what isn't. I think that, on balance, Morris does a good job in not overloading the book with discussion of sources....more
This is in part a biography--focusing on the professional more than the personal life--of Bert Berns, a significant figure in the early Sixties recordThis is in part a biography--focusing on the professional more than the personal life--of Bert Berns, a significant figure in the early Sixties record business, and in part a broader portrait of that business. Berns was most closely affiliated with Atlantic Records when it was still an independently owned label, Lieber and Stoller (key songwriters of the era) and others.
A couple of problems with the book: First, Selvin at times does an almost day-by-day recitation of the records Berns made with various artists. This gets a bit boring and repetitive. On the other hand, since so many of the recordings made were unsuccessful, this does, in a way, give one a more accurate feel for the business than some other works. So much of what was then recorded was dreck, with the occasional hit resulting.
Second, Selvin has an annoying habit of adopting industry slang--Berns "cut a record on" this artist or that artist.
My biggest criticism, however, is that, for a book about the music business--where publishing is at least as important as the records themselves--Selvin should have, but didn't spend some time early on explaining to the readers the difference between music publishing rights and recording rights and the different sources of income for each. Much of the book deals with the acquisition of publishing rights.
If you are interested in this subject but without much knowledge, the broader treatment of the music industry at that time should be very informative and interesting. If you have some substantial knowledge of the business, the interesting parts of the book really have to do with some of the characters and the maneuvering that takes place. I, for one, was aware that Jerry Wexler was a tough and often unscrupulous businessman, but I hadn't realized what a total asshole he was....more
I truly think it's time for Burke to give this series up. Lately, each book seems pretty much the same as the prior one--there are evil guys, who DaveI truly think it's time for Burke to give this series up. Lately, each book seems pretty much the same as the prior one--there are evil guys, who Dave and Clete can spot just by looking at them; Clete creates chaos; they tangle with the bad guys; there's minimal plot, etc.
This stark conflict between good and evil is getting very tired. There's almost no pretense here of a crime to be solved. Bare as this story is, the book runs over 500 pages; it's bloated.
Dave's daughter, Alafair has become a larger character in the last couple of novels. Unfortunately, she's not particularly interesting. Her personality and dialogue are basically identical to Dave's....more
If you are a trained musician (which I am not), this might well be a 5-star book. Macdonald analyzes each recording made by the Beatles, including thoIf you are a trained musician (which I am not), this might well be a 5-star book. Macdonald analyzes each recording made by the Beatles, including those unreleased tracks which are known, in chronological order. He identifies the basic information--instrumentation, performers, producers, engineers, dates of recording, studios and first release dates--and comments on both the technical recording, the performance, arrangement and the song itself. In addition, where he considered it appropriate, Macdonald discusses antecedents, inspirations and the social and musical impact of certain songs.
As I said, if you are a trained musician, you might well find the discussions of song structure and arrangement fascinating and even educational. Since that's not me, I was left to largely skim through the track-by-track analyses to read Macdonald's less technical commentary. Some of this seems really interesting, some seems a bit off-base. A good deal of his criticism of the work of Lennon in particular (but McCartney as well to a lesser degree) is based on his view as to the influence of pot and LSD on their work.
Aside from my lack of interest in the technical portions of the book, my big criticism is that, in my view, Macdonald often simply doesn't get the "magic in the music". He's clearly tentative in explaining the popularity of some recordings. For example, he's particularly dismissive of "All You Need is Love", calling it the most undeserved of the Beatles' hits. His discussion of the lyrics, arrangement and recording is particularly harsh. And while this song isn't a particular favorite of mine, there's no doubt that it is stirring, packing a real emotional punch. Macdonald just doesn't grapple with that. The same can be said of a number of his analyses--his overly technical approach often ignores the "gut" impact of songs. A reverse example is his treatment of "She's Leaving Home". Now I find this track to be just about the weakest one on Sgt. Pepper--in a word, it's treacly. But Macdonald is effusive in his praise of the song structure, arrangement and lyrics. All of that may be true, and yet...
I suspect that the best use of the book is as a resource; when listening to Beatles music, being able to turn to Macdonald's book to look up a particular song can be useful. One problem with this is that I read the Kindle version, where it's difficult to move back and forth. (It's also worth mentioning that the Kindle version appears to have been created by way of a scan of a physical version; it has the occasional error resulting from scanning a less than fully clear physical copy.)
In addition, the book gives some overview of each album--the circumstances under which it was recorded, the cultural context, etc....more
James Woods' review in the New York Times Book Review of Mitchell's newest novel makes the point that Mitchell is a terrific story teller but not a grJames Woods' review in the New York Times Book Review of Mitchell's newest novel makes the point that Mitchell is a terrific story teller but not a great explorer of the human condition. Number 9 Dream fits that bill to an extent, although perhaps less lacking in humanity that works such as Cloud Atlas.
Even though the book's characters are all Japanese and the story takes place primarily in Tokyo--all relatively unknown to me--the narrative sucked me in right away. As I said, Mitchell is great at story-telling....more
This was a real discovery for me. Gibson and Jackson discuss hitting, pitching, baseball and other subjects. Absolutely fascinating, if occasionally aThis was a real discovery for me. Gibson and Jackson discuss hitting, pitching, baseball and other subjects. Absolutely fascinating, if occasionally a bit too detailed or technical. Both guys are incredibly thoughtful observers of the game and of their own careers, and very articulate....more
I thought this was generally very good. My issue with it is that, while the author very effectively establishes a number of mysteries about "The Land"I thought this was generally very good. My issue with it is that, while the author very effectively establishes a number of mysteries about "The Land", what happened to their neighbors, etc., she crams the answers to these and other questions into the last 40-50 pages of the book. It felt a bit rushed to me. Perhaps that's just a first novel error....more
This is the first Coben book I've read. I might read another at some point, but I doubt I will read another in this particular series.
I thought the pThis is the first Coben book I've read. I might read another at some point, but I doubt I will read another in this particular series.
I thought the plot was decent, although 2/3 of the way through, you can see the answer to the principal mystery of the book. The main character--Bolitar and his best friend Win are, frankly, hard to swallow--I just didn't believe in them as real people, particularly Win. And those parts of the dialogue intended as witty repartee just seemed cloned from a dozen other detective series. Even the bad guys seemed to be cliches....more