Never Drank the Kool-Aid
(Picador, 2006)

OK, first confession: I was originally drawn to Touré's essay collection because of the title. The very first news story I can remember paying any attention to was about the Jonestown massacre, in which the followers of cult leader Jim Jones drank or were injected with poisoned Flavor Aid (which became the better-known Kool-Aid in the popular imagination). My elementary school library had a copy of the Time magazine that covered the incident with graphic pictures of the bodies.

Over time, as Touré explains in his introduction, the phrase "drank the Kool-Aid" has come to mean "buying into what someone tells you." What Touré is asserting with his title is that he was never taken in by the hype surrounding the famous people he has interviewed.

For the most part, these profiles and interviews have previously appeared elsewhere: Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Tennis, Playboy and others. Some few of the pieces, however, have not been previously published.

Now here's my second confession: for the most part, I'd never heard of the people in these profiles. Oh, sure, I've heard of Prince (for one thing, I was a teenager around the time of Purple Rain), Beyoncé, Michael Jordan, Al Sharpton. But ?uestlove, Caushun, Biggie Smalls? Nope. My musical tastes run to Celtic and classical, so these aren't really the sort of people I can relate to. And yet Touré's profiles brought them vividly to life. When I first read the introduction to this book, I was positive there was no way that I could even finish it because the subjects were so foreign. But Touré's writing is utterly compelling and I found myself, instead, unable to put it down.

by Laurie Thayer
7 April 2007

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