It doesn't take long to divine Taraborrelli's opinion of himself in this book: it begins with a quote from Miss Ross herself telling him how he knowsIt doesn't take long to divine Taraborrelli's opinion of himself in this book: it begins with a quote from Miss Ross herself telling him how he knows her better than any biographer. Yes, the first words of the biography are about him, not her. And this reviewer found this writer's constant references to "this writer" (rather than simply "I" or "me") to be tiresome and pompously self-serving.
Now, having written two previous biographies of the Motown superstar, he's returning to squeeze the last bit of milk from his cash cow.
To be fair, despite being an unashamed fan, Taraborrelli is even-handed. It's long been alleged that Ross is an uncompromising, career-focused manipulator and, despite his obvious love for her as an artist, he's quite happy to show her in this unflattering light. He even colludes with the consensus that Ross was miscast in The Wiz when a one-eyed fan might have presented it as a triumph. This is by no means a hagiography. Its failings lie elsewhere.
The book is over-long and excessively detailed, with the accumulation of facts valued far above writing style. Taraborrelli is meticulous at the expense of readability and his prose is workmanlike and uninspired, as if he's desperate to collate every scrap of source material rather than tell a story. And yet the opposite is true when it comes to the photos. Nearly all of them are PR shots taken from the glory years 1966-68, giving a frustratingly incomplete picture.
In the end we don't learn much about Ross that we didn't already know. We just know it in more detail. A lot, lot more detail....more
Shepard's book promises a look at the changing nature of journalism, but it's more of an autobiography with a few short think-pieces at the end. His aShepard's book promises a look at the changing nature of journalism, but it's more of an autobiography with a few short think-pieces at the end. His account of growing up in New York, falling in love with journalism and becoming the very successful editor of BusinessWeek is interesting without being gripping and personal without being revealing. Throughout the book he is at pains to mention the names of all the big beasts he met (star CEOs and presidents) and the names of all those who helped him along the way, such that at times the book resembles a very long retirement speech. Perhaps that's what it is.
He is good on the ethics of journalism and honest about his mistakes, and there are some interesting anecdotes about some of his struggles with awkward business people and legal battles, but generally the book lacks bite. His insights into the change to digital journalism and the crisis of newspapers are certainly interesting, although there isn't enough depth to justify buying the book for these alone.
All in all, it's a pretty solid three stars.
Quibbles? The fact that you're a star editor doesn't mean you're immune from mistakes. He (or his editor) should know that it's 'card sharp' not 'card shark', and that the plural of 'syllabus' isn't 'syllabi'. And his summary of the articles published in his time at BusinessWeek needed a maths check, unless the average length of stories during those two decades really was 100 words. ...more