Beethoven: The Man Revealed

Stieler, Joseph Karl: Beethoven mit der Missa solemnis Ölgemälde, 1819

By John Suchet (2012) This “biography” is a sub-Wikipedia standard, slapdash tract that wouldn’t pass muster as an afternoon talk to Kiwanis with early onset dementia. We’ve developed a drinking game for those who choose to peruse it: When the author says “it seems” or something “might have” been, or is “likely,” “possible,” “probable,” or words to that effect, you have a beer. I had a beer on pages 4, 17, 26, 30, 41, 48, 50, 54, 56, 76, 83, and 100;  2 beers on pages 5, 6, 36, 47, 51, 82, and 105; 3 schooners on page 82, and 4 pots on pages 3 and 7….

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Peter Lawford – The Man Who Kept the Secrets

By James Spada (1991) This is a dense, fact-packed, competently written but somewhat pedestrian account of a very strange, sad man. Lawford (1923 – 1984) was an urbane English actor with more charm than talent, as can be seen from his mediocre filmography (reasonable performances in MGM confectionary like The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), quite moving as the doomed soldier; Good News (1947) with June Allyson (see below); Easter Parade (1948), and Royal Wedding (1951), and effective 2nd lead roles in It Should Happen to You (1954); Exodus (1960), a neat turn as a nasty, bigoted officer; The Longest Day (1962), suave as Lord Lovat; Dead Ringer…

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American Pharaoh

The Mayor at the opening of the Lake Front Festival, 1973, showing his sartorial flair

Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation (by Adam Cohen & Elizabeth Taylor) (2000) What other book to buy in the south side of Chicago? TVC was only a few blocks from Bridgeport, where Richard J Daley lived and died, with his wife of five or so decades and 7 children, bog Irish and loyal to their neighbourhood to an insane degree, so loyal that they looked down on Irish families that moved to the suburbs, the ones so pretentious that they “had fruit in the house when nobody was sick,”  Having selected this and one other book, TVC…

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Butterfly on a Pin by Alannah Hill

It is wrong to judge an autobiography on the character of its subject.  It’s apparent from Australian fashion designer Alannah Hill’s memoir, Butterfly on a Pin, that she is melodramatic, rude, narcissistic, deliberately ignorant and Difficult to Get On With.  Hill says that she was molested no fewer than 4 times her in her youth.  She does not mention eating anything other than junk food and lollies. In her younger days she lied, forged and stole (“the next day I shoplifted a hammer”). She is obsessed with her son* and her dead mother (whom she spends much of her book demeaning).  She had an undoubtedly rotten childhood, has pulled-herself-up by her pretty bootstraps…

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Gold Dust Woman : The Biography of Stevie Nicks

(by Stephen Davis) That “The” in the title is pretty rich. This is not a definitive biography of Stevie Nicks. This is a pedestrian grab for cash. Davis didn’t interview Nicks – he’s taken his material from published interviews, the music, quotes, interviews with friends and colleagues. He may have spoken to Nicks when working with Mick Fleetwood on the latter’s 1990 memoirs, Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac (which Davis says was “an international best seller (and the foundation text for almost every book written since about this band).”  Gold Dust Woman isn’t a bad book, it’s just that…

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