From The New York Times:
David Kirby’s brief biography of Little Richard reads the way Richard’s shows of the past few decades have played. It’s an engaging, intermittently exciting but ultimately frustrating mix of assertion, reminiscence, free association, repetition, clowning and showing off, with just enough talent on display to keep you from walking out. Kirby, a poet and critic who teaches English at Florida State University, has plenty to say about the rock ’n’ roll “originator,” as Little Richard likes to call himself. It’s carving the good bits out from everything surrounding them that’s the problem. Kirby would probably argue that his spirited digressions — on the banana pudding in Macon, Ga., Little Richard’s hometown; on Southern stereotyping in the television series “Friday Night Lights”; on Kirby’s African-American playmates when he was growing up in Louisiana in the 1940s and ’50s — are as essential to understanding the importance of Little Richard as the music itself. A more straightforward discussion of his career, in this view, has either been done or would be too staid.
Fair enough — to a degree. Charles White’s “Life and Times of Little Richard,” from which Kirby draws liberally, is a riveting book and would be nearly impossible to displace as the definitive biography. But one of Kirby’s stated motivations for writing “Little Richard” is that his subject, who is 77, is a vastly underrated, if not forgotten, figure. It seems disingenuous to maintain simultaneously that Little Richard has fallen off the cultural radar but is also too well documented to warrant a more comprehensive examination.