Maestro: Greenspan’s Fed and the American Boom, by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster). Most critics are a bit bored: “[M]ind-numbing detail” and “no big surprises” goes the refrain. Woodward, of Watergate fame and now an editor at the Washington Post, gets some accolades for interesting inside reporting, but many find his usual Beltway approach too taxing. “Readers are required to slog through some 100 [Federal Open Market Committee] meetings at which Mr. Greenspan presided. Dull? Darlings, you cannot imagine” (Susan Lee, the Wall Street Journal). Woodward perpetuates the Greenspan mystique and sometimes overreaches: “The notion that President Clinton needed Greenspan to tell him deficit reduction was good for the economy doesn’t ring true” (Dina Temple-Raston, USA Today). Woodward also offers little analysis: On “the episode that will make Greenspan’s place in history—his willingness to back away from his own warnings against ‘irrational exuberance’ in the late ‘90s in order to permit the boom to roll on—Woodward has relatively little to say. He knows it happened. He makes a stab. He doesn’t nail it” (David Warsh, the Boston Globe). (Click here for excerpts from the book and here for Slate’s recent visit to the Fed.)—Y.S.
A Life in the 20th Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950, by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (Houghton Mifflin). Mostly positive reviews for the first volume of this celebrity historian’s memoirs. The character sketches and vignettes are “engaging and sophisticated” (Publishers Weekly). Reviewers are more or less charmed. On one extreme: “Never celebrated for his modesty … Schlesinger abets his critics with his endless lists of movies and plays he has seen, of trips he has taken … it is less a memoir than a state document such as a retired politician would write, cluttered with so many obligatory nods to so many ‘warm’ and ‘dear’ and ‘loyal’ and ‘good’ friends that one’s patience is quickly and severely taxed” (Jonathan Yardley, the Washington Post). On the other: “The stories Schlesinger tells and the characters he recalls are vivid. … Schlesinger can be self-important … [b]ut even his smugness has a certain hilarious pungency” (Lance Morrow, Time). Most consider the memoir valuable and intelligent social and political history: It “captures a milieu that is fast receding into the shadows … historians of years to come will turn to this volume for a snapshot of a big slice of the World War II generation” (Jon Meacham, Newsweek). (Click here to read Schlesinger on liberalism in America, here for an interview with Schlesinger.)—Y.S.
Lovers Rock, by Sade (Epic).This long-awaited album is in keeping with her earlier smooth, sultry mood music. Some find it a touch bland: “more atmosphere than attitude … so sleek and low-key, it quickly slips into the background, the aural equivalent of wallpaper” (Joel Selvin, the San Francisco Chronicle). But Sade has made some changes, like stripping down the instrumentation and turning to socially conscious lyrics, which reviewers both smile and frown upon. Some say, “Sade has taken the schlock out of her shellac” (Jody Rosen, the New York Times); others say her “quasi-protest songs … sound pretentious and silly” (Teresa Wiltz, the Washington Post). But all agree Lovers Rock is distinctively Sade. “Lovers Rock is her first album in eight years, and guess what—it sounds exactly like Sade … the groove is light, the voice is chilly and the songs change titles every five minutes or so, although nobody told the drummer” (Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone). (Click here for Sade’s official site, with links to video and audio of the album’s single “By Your Side.”)—Y.S.