Speed Reading

Pub date July 23, 2008
SectionArts & CultureSectionLiterature


Edited by Karin Bauer

Seven Stories Press

268 pages


Will the myriad fragments of Ulrike Meinhof’s life ever make a convincing portrait? This first English publication of her journalism presents the many argumentative voices of Meinhof and those she inspires or infuriates. Editor Karin Bauer couldn’t publish Meinhof without an excoriating afterward by Meinhof’s daughter, Bettina Röhl, that fixates on her mother’s Communist ties. (Röhl may — somewhat predictably — be as conservative as Meinhof was radical, but like mother like daughter, nonetheless: she’ll discard human contradictions for the sake of political argument.) Thankfully, Elfrede Jelinek’s too-brief preface and Bauer’s introduction are more evenhanded.

Meinhof’s enigma is fortified by her writings for the magazine konkret. In 1961’s "Hitler Within You" (which provoked a German defense minister into a libel suit rather than soul-searching), fierce intelligence wrestles with the inheritance of a still-living older generation’s Holocaust crimes. These incantatory and analytical gifts shift toward feminism with 1969’s "Everybody Talks About the Weather." The opening salvo of 1968’s "From Protest to Resistance" is borrowed from the Black Panthers, yet Meinhof’s scathing same-year critique of newspaper columns and columnists, 1968’s "Columnism," should be studied at journalism school. But in contrast to radicals such as Angela Davis and Soha Bechara, isolation and imprisonment doomed Meinhof. Bauer only quotes from Meinhof’s last, agonized writings before she committed suicide in 1976. (Johnny Ray Huston)


By Christopher Ciccone (with Wendy Leigh)

Simon Spotlight Entertainment

342 pages


Christopher Ciccone’s life with his sister Madonna turns out to be what any reader would expect: that of a gay little brother to a latter-day gay icon — in other words, that of the ultimate lackey, wiping her down after performances and accompanying her to parties where everyone tries too hard to be fabulous. For a reader, the little bit of pleasure resides in trivia: Madonna’s favorite candy was Hot Tamales; she was uncharacteristically weak in the presence of Jean-Michel Basquiat; she met Cher surprisingly early in her career; she didn’t think Andy Warhol was much of a conversationalist. (In contrast, in his diaries, he instantly recognized her business sense.)

According to Life With My Sister Madonna, Warren Beatty looked through Madonna’s trash for evidence of cheating, Courtney Love likes to count her lines of coke, and Jack Nicholson ain’t above a key bump.

Sandra Bernhard’s name is misspelled Bernhardt.

First best-sentence nominee (about a Helmut Newton knockoff photo of Madonna by Stephen Klein): "I think it sad that poor Rocco and Lola have to wake up each morning and come face-to-face with this huge picture of their mother dressed in a blatant S&M outfit, lying on a bed with dead animals all around her." Second best-sentence nominee (gleaned from a fax): "I gave up my fucking life to make you the evil queen you are today … 15 years listening to your bitching egotistical rantings, mediocre talent, and a lack of taste that would stun the ages." (Huston)