Friday, November 16, 2012

New Biographies are here! Check them out!!

Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie

Kirkus Reviews –

The frightening, illuminating and disturbing memoir by the author of The Satanic Verses, the book that provoked a death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. Rushdie (Luka and the Fire of Life, 2008, etc.) chose for his cover name (and for the title) the first names of Conrad and Chekhov--appropriate, for the author seemed caught in a tangled novel filled with ominous (and some cowardly) characters driven by an inscrutable fate toward a probable sanguinary climax. The author uses third person throughout, a decision that allows him a novelist's distance but denies some of the intimacy of the first person. Perhaps he viewed himself during those 13 years (the duration of his protection by British security forces) more as a character than a free agent. He returns continually to an image from Hitchcock's The Birds: the black birds gradually filling up a jungle gym on a school playground (these represent the threats to personal freedom presented by fundamentalists). Rushdie also includes unmailed letters to actual people (Tony Blair) and to ideas (the millennium). The organization is unremarkable: The author begins with his learning of the fatwa, retreats to tell about his life before 1989, then marches steadily toward the present with only a few returns (a section about his mother's love life). Bluntly, he tells about his wives, divorces, affairs, successes and failures of pen and heart and character; his various security guards; and, very affectingly, about his two sons. He tells about his travels, many awards and celebrity friends. Emerging as heroic is the United States, where Rushdie realized he could live more freely than anywhere else. Aspects of a spy novel, a writer's autobiography and a victim's affidavit pulsing with resentment and fear combine to reveal a man's dawning awareness of the primacy of freedom.

Paterno by Joe Posnanski

Publishers Weekly –

Between bouts of coughing and wheezing, the late Joe Paterno told Sports Illustrated senior writer Posnanski (The Soul of Baseball), "You picked a hell of a time to write about a football coach." Indeed, the author had relocated to State College, Penn., in 2011 and was given prime access to write what was intended to be the definitive biography of this driven man. But by year's end, JoePa's legacy was overshadowed by a horrific child sexual abuse scandal involving former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky—a man Paterno never liked. The head coach was subsequently fired, and died a few months later. But Posnanski doesn't dwell on that last tumultuous year—he gives the man's life its full due: Paterno served in the Army, played football at Brown University, was named Penn State's head coach in 1966 (a deal sealed with a handshake), and went on to become one of the all-time winningest football coaches. He was praised by the press, became a fundraising dynamo, and made sure his players received a good education—for Paterno, college football was about "Teaching young men how to live." After the scandal broke and shortly before he died, Paterno implored Posnanski— an accomplished writer with an unenviable task—to "write the truth." The author's straightforward treatment of the case might be the focus for contemporary readers, but his fair assessment of Paterno's life and illustrious career will stand the test of time. 

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young

Kirkus Reviews –

The long-awaited memoir from the legendary rocker. Readers will learn few of the secrets of Young's art of songwriting, save that "Ohio" came in a flash in response to the bad news from Kent State, and he didn't play a note on "Teach Your Children." Neither, apart from a visit to the clinic here and there, will they learn much about musicians' hedonistic ways. Instead, Young writes of electric trains. He loves them so much that he bought a stake in Lionel, and he has barns and rooms on his rambling California ranch full of them. "I saw David [Crosby] looking at one of my train rooms full of rolling stock and stealing a glance at Graham [Nash] that said, This guy is cuckoo. He's gone nuts. Look at this obsession. I shrugged it off. I need it. For me it is a road back," he writes. Trains return often in the narrative, as do dusty roads, old cars and tractors. But Young, author of "Trans" and other weird outings that once got him sued by his own record label for delivering music "uncharacteristic of Neil Young," is also a technogeek extraordinaire, particularly when it comes to sound; he often mentions the digital format that he's been tinkering with in his mad-scientist lab. He asserts that because it preserves so little--5 percent, by his reckoning--of the actual sound of a recording, "[i]t is not offensive to me that the MP3-quality sound is traded around." Along the way, Young discusses guitars and bands, revealing a now-improbable wish to reconvene Buffalo Springfield, which never lived up to its promise, and Crazy Horse. Sometimes he's even a little jokey about music in general (on America's song "A Horse with No Name": "Hey, wait a minute! Was that me? Okay. Fine. I am back now. That was close!"). Not the revelation that was Keith Richards' Life, but an entertaining and mostly well-written journey into the past, if light on rock 'n' roll.

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