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the beautiful ones book review

The Beautiful Ones Hardcover – 29 Oct. 2019

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THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A Times , Sunday Times and Telegraph Book of the Year ______________________________________________ 'A triumph ... a masterclass in the bottling of its subject’s seductive essence. His presence in this book is so strong that it’s hard to believe he has really left the building' MOJO 'Handsomely presented , visually sumptuous ' THE TIMES ______________________________________________ From Prince himself comes the brilliant coming-of-age-and-into-superstardom story of one of the greatest artists of all time―featuring never-before-seen photos, original scrapbooks and lyric sheets, and the exquisite memoir he began writing before his tragic death. Prince was a musical genius, one of the most talented, beloved, accomplished, popular, and acclaimed musicians in pop history. But he wasn't only a musician―he was also a startlingly original visionary with an imagination deep enough to whip up whole worlds, from the sexy, gritty funk paradise of his early records to the mythical landscape of Purple Rain to the psychedelia of Paisley Park. But his greatest creative act was turning Prince Rogers Nelson, born in Minnesota, into Prince, the greatest pop star of his era. The Beautiful Ones is the story of how Prince became Prince―a first-person account of a kid absorbing the world around him and then creating a persona, an artistic vision, and a life, before the hits and fame that would come to define him. The book is told in four parts. The first is composed of the memoir he was writing before his tragic death, pages that brings us into Prince's childhood world through his own lyrical prose. The second part takes us into Prince's early years as a musician, before his first album released, through a scrapbook of Prince's writing and photos. The third section shows us Prince's evolution through candid images that take us up to the cusp of his greatest achievement, which we see in the book's fourth section: his original handwritten treatment for Purple Rain―the final stage in Prince's self-creation, as he retells the autobiography we've seen in the first three parts as a heroic journey. The book is framed by editor Dan Piepenbring’s riveting and moving introduction about his short but profound collaboration with Prince in his final days―a time when Prince was thinking deeply about how to reveal more of himself and his ideas to the world, while retaining the mystery and mystique he’d so carefully cultivated―and annotations that provide context to each of the book’s images. This work is not just a tribute to Prince, but an original and energizing literary work, full of Prince’s ideas and vision, his voice and image, his undying gift to the world. ______________________________________________ ‘ Prince’s voice comes through loud and clear ; his personality, joie de vivre and single-mindedness jumping off the page throughout.’ CLASSIC POP MAGAZINE ' The Beautiful Ones is for everyone . It's not a read, but an experience, an immersion inside the mind of a musical genius . You are steeped in Prince's images, his words, his essence… The book can be a starting point for a Prince fascination, or a continuation of long-standing admiration. Either way, it will deepen the connection of any reader with the musical icon.” USA TODAY ‘ The Beautiful Ones remains a jewel-like fragment, Piepenbring’s sensitive introduction providing a snapshot of the Purple One’s last months at Paisley Park and during the Piano and Microphone tour’ Q MAGAZINE 'An affirmation of Prince’s Blackness and humanity… Prince writes about his childhood with clarity and poetic flair, effortlessly combining humorous anecdotes with deep self-reflection and musical analysis… Prince is one of us ― he just worked to manifest dreams that took him from the North Side of Minneapolis to the Super Bowl.' HUFFPOST ‘A compelling curiosity that finds its author orbiting around a few touchingly intimate encounters with his sphinx-like subject … with passages, lyric sheets and photographs from the Purple One himself’ TELEGRAPH , Books of the Year 'A memoir that is written by Prince, literally. Handwritten pages he had shared with Piepenbring make up Part 1, taking us from his first memory ― his mother's eyes ― through the early days of his career... The Beautiful Ones doesn't paint a perfect picture. It's not definitive. It can't be, it shouldn't be and, thankfully, it doesn't try to be. We'll never know what it might have been if Prince had lived. But it's a good start. Now, it's up to us to take what's there and make something out of it for ourselves, creating, just as Prince wanted.' NPR ' Both a pleasure and a surprise ... Prince took the project very seriously, and it shows in the work he delivered. ... It shines an intimate and revealing light on the least-known period of his life' VARIETY ‘ The Beautiful Ones is a book in pieces, fragments of the ground-breaking autobiography Prince had planned. Pieced together after his death in 2016, it collects his handwritten childhood memoires, superb personal photographs and his chosen co-writer Dan Piepenbring’s vivid account of their brief collaboration. Yet remarkably despite the central absence, it still catches something of Prince between the gaps - a trace of perfume, a glance to camera, a first kiss’ SUNDAY TIMES , Book of the Year ‘ This is a beautiful book and a must-have for Prince completists’ DAILY EXPRESS ‘A ghostly memoir of a pop legend’ THE i

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the beautiful ones book review

Celebrate Pride with New Books

The Beautiful Ones

Prince , dan piepenbring.

280 pages, Hardcover

First published October 29, 2019

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the beautiful ones book review

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Book Review: Prince’s Autobiography ‘The Beautiful Ones’

By Jem Aswad

Senior Music Editor

Prince The Beautiful Ones

It wasn’t hard to be skeptical when Prince ’s autobiography, “ The Beautiful Ones ,” was first announced earlier this year. In the rare interviews that he gave, the late artist was famously private, cryptic and confounding when it came to discussing his own life, often answering direct questions in confusing or oddly symbolic terms. The official description of the book — that it features “photos, original scrapbooks and lyric sheets written in Prince’s own hand, and the early pages of the memoir Prince began writing before his death” — lowered expectations even further, evoking a vision of a few dashed-off pages padded with artwork.

So it’s both a pleasure and a surprise to say that although “The Beautiful Ones” may not satisfy fans’ wildest dreams, it delivers much, much more than we had any reason to expect. As is clear from editor Dan Piepenbring’s very long intro (and a more-digestible recent New Yorker article ), Prince took the project very seriously, and it shows in the work he delivered. Although the actual autobiography segment of this book ends at the end of Prince’s teens, it shines an intimate and revealing light on the least-known period of his life — his childhood — which is embellished with family photos, notes and other ephemera.

The book does not scrimp on detail: Prince’s handwritten manuscript, rendered in his famously precise cursive script (complete with his trademark “4”s for “for” and “eye” or symbols for “I”), is reproduced in full, and followed by the text in formal print. In it, Prince delves deep into his childhood, noting that his first memories are of his mother’s eyes and his jazz musician father’s piano playing. The family photographs from the era that show just how stylish his parents were; judging from the photos, he got at least some of his cocky and confident swagger from his mother. He recalls the sense of excitement around watching his parents getting dressed up to go out and the visions of his own it inspired: “Only thing better than watching Mother [and] Father getting dressed up 4 the night on the town was watching them leave. That’s where the Imagined Life began. A place where I could pretend dress-up & enter a fantasy of my own direction. A different storyline every time, but always with similar outcomes — I am always sharp & I always get the girl.”

He also wrote of a childhood obsession with “Superman,” noting “It’s funny to turn on the TV and in America you just see white people playing the heroes… That affects your self-image when you’re black and watching white heroes.” He also writes about his childhood nickname (“Skipper”), his first kiss, and the seizures he suffered until adolescence.

Things turned darker when Prince was 7: His parents split up, and he is unsparing in his depiction of his mother, with whom he initially lived before moving in with his father. “She was 2 strong & not always in a good way. She would spend up what little $ the family had 4 survival on partying with her friends, then trespass in2 my bedroom, ‘borrow’ my personal $ that I’d gotten from babysitting local kids, & then chastise me 4 even questioning her regarding the broken promise she made 2 pay me back. In hindsight, I am glad I was able 2 help put food on the table, but this was the 1st time I had ever had any real $ before & it felt amazing.”

Prince lived with his father — his “hero” — for just a few months before moving in with the family of his cousin and best friend, Andre Cymone, the original bassist in his band. At the same time, his musical talent was flowering, and he writes of his early influences (James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles and many others) and the guidance of a local DJ named Jerry “Motormouth” Mac. He also shows an early awareness of his own talent. “Everybody can point 2 at least one song that is ‘their jam’ & nobody else’s. The 1st time I knew I had written [one of those jams was ‘Do Me, Baby’ [released in 1981], a song whose intro made me feel the same way I felt the 1st time I heard ‘Sweet Thing’ by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan.”

Sprinkled in with these memories are recollections of high school and girlfriends from an otherwise ordinary teenage life, along with notes and sketches of imaginary album covers and press kits — which are like so many other teen fantasy sketches, except, well, they’re by Prince and they came true.

As he grows through his teens, so does his swagger, and the trademark Prince smirk begins to appear in photographs as Grand Central, his first serious band (featuring Cymone on bass and future Time frontman Morris Day on drums) grows in stature. However, Warner Bros. Records was interested in Prince as a solo artist, and he signed with the label in 1977 at the age of 19.

That period — from teendom to major label recording artist — is essentially where Prince’s narration ends, although there is his handwritten treatment of the “Purple Rain” film script, with its dramatically different original ending, included later in the book. To continue the storyline — which essentially ends in 1986, when Prince disbanded the Revolution — the book relies on his quotes from a wide variety of sources, including stage banter from his final tour in 2016, along with ample photographs, drawings and notes. The initial segment of that closing section is one of the most fascinating parts of the book: a reproduction of a photo album, with captions by a presumably young Prince, containing a couple dozen pictures from his trip to California to record his debut album, ranging from shots of him in the studio to candids of him and his friends.

While the photos, quotes and ephemera do a mostly satisfying job of concluding the book, the closing chapters are inevitably a bringdown after the revelations in the autobiographical section. But unless there are more pages lurking somewhere in Prince’s voluminous archives, this is all we’re going to get, and it’s a lot: “The Beautiful Ones” brings so much new information to light that it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed.

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by Prince with Dan Piepenbring ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 29, 2019

A poignantly intimate, revelatory read for Prince fans and music lovers.

A legendary musician and the co-author he chose three months before his death sketch a tantalizing half-finished self-portrait in both words and images.

When Prince died in 2016, he left behind 30 pages of a memoir that his co-writer,  Paris Review  advisory editor Piepenbring (co-author: Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties , 2019), had annotated with the singer’s own expansions and that Prince had intended as a “handbook for the brilliant community: wrapped in autobiography, wrapped in biography.” Remaining scrupulously faithful to that vision, Piepenbring pieces together Prince’s memoir fragments with never-before-seen memorabilia the editor helped excavate from the singer’s Paisley Park vault in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The book opens with Piepenbring’s warm remembrances of their brief association and statement of mission. Though unfinished, the memoir, which is divided into four parts, was to have set forth what Prince called an “an unconventional and poetic journey” that celebrated the creative freedom he prized above all else. Prince remembers the glamorous parents who raised him and whose interpersonal conflicts later fueled much of his creative output. He also reminisces about his hometown, Minneapolis, his worship of his musician father, and his first loves, music being chief among them. The second section, “For You,” consists of photographed images—at once funny and supremely personal—of a scrapbook Prince kept in the years preceding his first album,  For You  (1978). In “Controversy,” Piepenbring traces the creative work that followed For You and preceded  Purple Rain  (1984) with images of both the singer and lyrics—complete with Prince’s doodles and corrections—to such classics such as “1999.” The final section, “Baby I’m a Star,” features both handwritten treatments for Prince’s semiautobiographical film,  Purple Rain , and Piepenbring’s typewritten version. Laced throughout with quotations from Prince interviews, this visually stunning labor of love reveals the shy, vulnerable man behind the glitz and controversy without ever “punctur[ing] the veil of mystery around him.”

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-58965-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2019


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What Early Readers Have Learned From Prince’s Memoir


Collaborating With Prince: Dan Piepenbring Discusses His Work on the Late Musician’s Unfinished Memoir




by Robert Greene ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1998

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


More by Robert Greene



by Robert Greene




by Elie Wiesel & translated by Marion Wiesel ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 16, 2006

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006


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by Elie Wiesel ; edited by Alan Rosen


by Elie Wiesel ; illustrated by Mark Podwal


by Elie Wiesel ; translated by Marion Wiesel

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the beautiful ones book review


Profile menu, prince's the beautiful ones is a breathtaking, occasionally frustrating look at the icon.

October Books

Among contemporary music icons, Prince was the least likely to write an unsparing, tell-all memoir about his life and career. Notoriously protective over his personal history, the artist born Prince Rogers Nelson often dealt in ambiguities and obfuscation. In the rare case he would participate in interviews, reporters were prohibited from recording the conversation or taking notes. Meanwhile, the quotes Prince gave were mostly elliptical — intriguing, insightful, but typically devoid of anything truly intimate.

So when he announced, in March of 2016, that he would be releasing his first autobiography (“The good people of Random House have made me an offer that I can’t refuse,” he told a crowd of fans and friends at a small gathering in New York City. “You all still read books, right?”) it was hard not to think of it as a practical joke. Or, if Prince was telling the truth — which, it turned out, he was — to wonder why he had decided to pursue such a potentially invasive project in the first place.

The finished product, this month’s The Beautiful Ones , holds some of the answers. As Dan Piepenbring — then an editor at venerated literary magazine The Paris Review and Prince’s partner on the book — notes in its emotional introduction, Prince became “conscious of his own mortality” toward the end of his life after numerous people in his orbit had fallen ill or passed away. “More than ever,” writes Piepenbring, “he saw that value in telling his own story.”

He would never get the chance to do so in full. One month following the memoir announcement, Prince was found dead at his Paisley Park compound in Minnesota. The cause of death was an accidental overdose of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. That left his autobiography in a state of flux. Prince had written a few dozen pages before he died but it wasn’t enough to finish the project. To do so, Piepenbring went on a quest through Paisley to search for lost writings, photos, and artifacts that could help round things out and give readers something close to what the artist first envisioned.

Prince’s initial ambitions for the project were grand. He spoke of a memoir that could potentially end racism and later, a book that would be “a handbook for the brilliant community: wrapped in autobiography, wrapped in biography.” The final version isn’t any of those things, really. While the pages Prince originally wrote do have the makings of a memoir — complete with his trademark eye emojis, 2s, Us, and Rs — when paired with Piepenbring’s lengthy prologue, never-before-seen-photos, and an original 11-page treatment of the film Purple Rain , The Beautiful Ones is ultimately rendered more as a scrapbook than a searing personal tale.


But then, it is one hell of a scrapbook. The book kicks off with Piepenbring’s engrossing tale behind the memoir (it dates back to late 2014), how he first became involved, and the surreal but brief friendship he shared with Prince. (It’s an odd and entertaining sensation reading about someone as mystical as Prince operating a car, as he did one snowy night in Minnesota when he volunteered to drive Piepenbring back to his hotel.)

That soon gives way to the pages the artist wrote before his passing. They represent Prince at his most forthright. The first line, “My mother’s eyes. That’s the 1st thing [eye] can remember,” is an impressively personal and public admission for an artist who hated giving them. But, remarkably, he continues to share, going on to recount his relationship with his parents, his early beginnings as a musician, his experience with racism, and his first kiss with a white girl named Laura: “All lives mattered back then because race didn’t,” he writes. “At least not in r fantasy world. Laura kissed me three times that day. Each time was my 1st. The obligatory husband on the way 2 work kiss, one when u returned, & one b4 u went 2 sleep that night.” These recollections are tender and heartfelt but it’s frustrating when they finally stop short, knowing there are still so many Prince stories left untold. Not having more of his prose here lessens the book’s overall impact.

Yet the back-half of The Beautiful Ones is still a rare treasure trove for Prince fanatics. Included here are a POV photo diary documenting his trip to Los Angeles to sign his first record deal, photo outtakes from the Dirty Mind cover shoot, and early handwritten drafts of “Kiss,” “Do Me Baby,” “Soft and Wet.” With these items, fans get a glimpse at the wonderment and playful imagination of Prince during the early stages of his career.

It all makes The Beautiful Ones a worthy document, even if it fails to live up to the emotional highs of its beginning. But then, what remains is more than enough. We already knew that Prince was a once-in-a-generation songwriter, a brilliant and deft guitar player, singer, and performer who took a vigorous hours- (and sometimes days) -on-end approach to writing and recording music; someone who released almost 40 albums between 1978 – 2015. Getting a very brief glimpse of the things he had been hiding for years on top of all that just feels like a bonus. B+

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    When Prince died in 2016, he left behind 30 pages of a memoir that his co-writer, Paris Review advisory editor Piepenbring (co-author: Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties

  4. Prince The Beautiful Ones book: EW review

    The finished product, this month's The Beautiful Ones, holds some of the answers. The book kicks off with Piepenbring's engrossing tale behind the memoir (it dates back to late 2014), how he first became involved