1) BIOGRAPHIES2) PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTIONS, HISTORY, REFERENCE, CRITICISM, ETC. 3) MISCELLANEOUS
Danny Barker’s A Life in Jazz (The Historic New Orleans Collection), Alyn Shipton, editor, with a new introduction by Gwen Thompkins, “captures the breadth of Barker's knowledge and the scope of his vision as a storyteller. His carefully crafted set pieces range from hilarious to harrowing, and he shares memories of jazz greats such as Jelly Roll Morton, Cab Calloway, and Dizzy Gillespie. Barker's prose reflects the freedom and creativity of jazz while capturing the many injustices, both casual and grand, of life as a black man in midcentury America. This illustrated edition of A Life in Jazz brings Barker's autobiography back into print, accompanied by more than 100 images that bring his story to life. Gwen Thompkins, host of public radio's Music Inside Out, reflects on Barker's legacy in her introduction, and the complete discography and song catalog showcase the breadth of Barker's work. Through his struggles, triumphs, escapades, and musings, A Life in Jazz reflects the freedom, complexity, and beauty of this thoroughly American, black music tradition.” Photographs and illustrations, song catalogue, discography, index.
Chris Becker’s Freedom of Expression: Interviews With Women in Jazz (Beckeresque Press) has my vote for one of the most important jazz books of the past year or so. “At long last, an in-depth recognition of the female contributions to jazz. As Dr. Billy Taylor said about the lack of awareness of female musicians: ‘If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.’ Now everyone will know that it did happen and continues to happen. What a great gift to the history of women and music,” says Judy Chaikin, director of The Girls in the Band. The interviewees: Mindi Abair - Saxophones Cheryl Bentyne - Voice Jane Ira Bloom - Soprano Saxophone Samantha Boshnack - Trumpet Dee Dee Bridgewater - Voice Terri Lyne Carrington - Drums Sharel Cassity - Saxophones Anat Cohen - Clarinet, Saxophones Jean Cook - Violin Connie Crothers - Piano Eliane Elias - Piano, Voice Ayelet Rose Gottlieb - Voice Lenae Harris- Cello Val Jeanty - Electronics, Percussion Jan Leder - Flute Jennifer Leitham - Double Bass Carmen Lundy - Voice Sherrie Maricle - Drums Jane Monheit - Voice Jacqui Naylor - Voice Aurora Nealand - Saxophones, Clarinet Iris Ornig - Double Bass Alisha Pattillo - Tenor Saxophone Roberta Piket - Piano Cheryl Pyle - Flute Nicole Rampersaud - Trumpet Sofia Rei - Voice Patrizia Scascitelli - Piano Diane Schuur - Voice Ellen Seeling - Trumpet Helen Sung - Piano Jacqui Sutton - Voice Mazz Swift - Violin, Voice Nioka Workman - Cello Pamela York - Piano Brandee Younger - Harp Malika Zarra – Voice,” says the publisher’s description of Chris Becker’s Freedom of Expression. I especially point to Dr. Taylor’s words, similar to some he provided me on the issue of discrimination against women instrumentalists in an interview I did with him for my Growing Up With Jazz: Twenty-Four Musicians Talk About Their Lives and Careers (Oxford University Press, 2005). I was especially gratified upon reading the conversation author Becker had with trumpet player and bandleader Ellen Seeling, who minces no words in recounting her own experience in the patriarchal world of jazz the past four decades, concluding the interview with the appropriately scathing observation that for a woman instrumentalist to be “in fear of being put down or of losing [her] gig or being embarrassed in front of [her] band mates is not a good atmosphere in which to develop musically.” I’ve been writing about discrimination against women instrumentalists for almost four decades, interviewing more than a hundred of them (including some of those in Becker’s book) and profiling them in my books. Most of them have confirmed me in my conviction that the discrimination is pervasive, entrenched, and ongoing. Check out the review of my most recent book Growing Up With Jazz on my website to verify my deeply felt concern. The opening sentence of the review (http://wroyalstokes.com/growing_up_review.html) says it all. Also on my website is an essay I penned fifteen or so years ago, “Women in Jazz: Some Observations Regarding the Ongoing Discrimination in Performance and Journalism” (www.wroyalstokes.com/archive/women_in_jazz.htm). I also recommend Lara Pellegrinelli’s 2000 “Dig Boy Dig” (http://www.villagevoice.com/news/dig-boy-dig-6417174). There is a substantive interview with Ellen Seeling in the San Francisco Bay Times, “Montclair Women’s Big Band to Launch New Women’s Music Series at Feinstein’s (http://sfbaytimes.com/jazz-is-a-male-chauvinist-pig-sty-ellen-seeling/). Update: A PrNewswire article, “Jazz at Lincoln Center Adopts Blind Auditions and New Selection Procedures for Jazz Orchestra,” states, “Equal Rights Advocates, The Liu Law Firm P.C., Outten & Golden LLP, and our clients, Ellen Seeling and JazzWomen & Girls Advocates, are proud to announce that Jazz at Lincoln Center has formally adopted new selection procedures for regular and substitute members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. . . . . The new, more formalized selection procedures include blind auditions, formal job postings, and wider outreach about openings, all of which will help the Orchestra attract a broad and diverse pool of applicants. In particular, blind auditions have been widely credited with increasing the representation of women in symphony orchestras from less than 5% of all players in the 1970s, to close to 50% today.” (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jazz-at-lincoln-center-adopts-blind-auditions-and-new-selection-procedures-for-jazz-orchestra-300315206.html)
Josef Woodard and Charlie Haden, Conversations with Charlie Haden (Silman-James Press) “discusses [Haden’s] life and politics and music and aesthetics in a series of candid interviews conducted over two decades. . . . [Haden] worked with and influenced many of the most interesting musicians of the second half of the twentieth century, including Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Paul Bley, Carla Bley, Keith Jarrett, Billy Higgins, Paul Motion, Dewey Redman, Pat Metheny, Egberto Gismonti, Gavin Bryars, Geri Allen, Brad Mehldau, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and literally hundreds of others.” “From country music in the heartland to bebop in California and free jazz in New York and back again numerous times over Charlie Haden’s story is a classic American saga, and Josef Woodard allows him to tell it eloquently and in moving detail,” says Francis Davis, author of Jazz and Its Discontents: A Francis Davis Reader. Photographs.
In earlier roundups, I have enthused about Hal Howland’s several volumes of fiction and memoir and confessed to being an admirer of his writings. They include The Jazz Buyer: Short Fiction, Cities & Women>/em>, After Jerusalem: A Story and Two Novellas, and Landini Cadence and Other Stories. His memoir, The Human Drummer: Thoughts on the Life Percussive (Howland Press) is now in its seventh edition and “contains in-depth interviews with the Doors’ John Densmore and the Moody Blues’ Graeme Edge (in the first of which a notorious Ringo Starr rumor is laid to rest); personal recollections of Badfinger, the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Fred Begun, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Gary Burton, Peter Erskine, William Faulkner, Vic Firth, Robert Frost, Saul Goodman, Elvin Jones, John F. Kennedy, Gary Lewis (of the Playboys), Bill Ludwig Jr., Bob Mathias, Joe Morello, Max Roach, Collin Walcott, Tony Williams, Frank Zappa, and other public figures; a firsthand account of the famous 1968 Jim-less Doors concert in Amsterdam; musical and social commentary; advice for students, parents, and professionals; musical memories of America, Europe, the Middle East, and a colorful career in pop, jazz, and classical music; esoteric information for percussionists; groundbreaking timpani research; a professional directory; a satirical glossary; a comprehensive bibliography; an index; and two actual adventures on the high seas.” Drummer Hal Blaine says it “belongs in every musician’s library” and it has “has earned praise from major recording artists, symphonic musicians, and music-industry leaders.” The recipient of the 2012 Eric Hoffer Award for excellence in independent publishing, Howland has also released several jazz recordings. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Virginia, Europe, and the Middle East, he now lives in Key West. His Web site is at www.halhowland.com. Of Howland’s fiction, author Elizabeth Warner opines, “Howland seems to spin out plots as easily as an accomplished jazz musician riffs around a melody. (The metaphor is especially appropriate as Howland is a musician.)”
Gary Chen’s They Call Me Stein on Vine (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform), another memoir, recounts how “a born and raised Chinese boy from Taiwan through a love of jazz came to The United States of America to study at Berklee School of Music in Boston. . . and . . . landed at Stein-on-Vine (the jazz music landmark in Hollywood, California), the professional musical instrument shop that has been an essential and beloved part of the touring and local musician’s world for over 60 years. . . where the great jazz musicians gather to laugh, drink, gossip and play. This is the unvarnished behind-the-scenes story of great musicians living their lives.” “This is a wonderful journey through a friendship born out of a love for music and a love for jazz that takes in many of the great players of the second half of the twentieth century. It felt like you were sitting around a table hearing some of those great stories that only musicians can tell,” says Ordon Roberts on Amazon. Photographs, index.
As I have noted before in my annual roundups, one of my favorite genres is collections of correspondence. Mike Metheny’s Old Friends Are the Best Friends (mikemetheny.com) fits the bill. The subjects covered range across the spectrum, from music to politics, and the writing is by two very literate and informed individuals. My interest never lagged as I worked my way through Old Friends Are the Best Friends. “Even though these letters were written more than 25 years ago, they still prove that two people can disagree sharply about serious social issues yet remain the best of friends. We could use more of that kind of thinking today,” says author and trumpeter Metheny—and older brother of guitarist Pat, who says in his Foreword for the volume, “John McKee was a force. And he is one of the major reasons I became the musician that I am now. To this day, he remains one of the most important and unique personalities I have ever known.” On Mike’s website there is a nice summary of the relationship between the author and his friend John McKee: “John McKee and Mike Metheny grew up in a Kansas City suburb called Lee's Summit. As children of the l950s and ’60s, they, along with other members of a tightly knit group of friends, shared rites of passage and savored life in small-town Missouri. John and Mike eventually went their separate ways—Mike to Boston to pursue a career as a professional musician and teacher, John never leaving Lee's Summit or the family lumber business—but they remained in touch with a written correspondence that lasted over ten years. It was a dialogue that evolved into an open-ended forum for a wide range of thoughts and opinions, a conversation-by-mail about everything from impressions of different books, movies and pieces of music, to their opposing views about religion and politics. In the late 1980s, these letters increased in frequency and intensity and just about any subject was considered fair game. Childhood reflections, former girlfriends, current events, philosophical considerations and observations, the poignant, soul-searching and occasionally humorous accounts that come from everyday living . . . few topics were off limits. It was a cross-country ‘tennis match’ that served a decades-old friendship to the end. This correspondence finally came to a close with John McKee’s last installment written the day before his unexpected death. It was a letter—handed to Mike by the minister at John's funeral—that served as a powerful if not prophetic summing up of this prolific postal discourse. And it was a bookend to a life that had touched so many others.” Photographs, “Notes & References.”
Stan Levey: Jazz Heavyweight (Santa Monica Press), by Frank R. Hayde with Foreword by Charlie Watts, “follows Levey's prolific and colorful life, from his childhood days in rough-and-tumble North Philadelphia, to his first gig as a drummer for Dizzy Gillespie at the tender age of sixteen, to his meteoric rise as one of the most sought after sidemen in the world of bebop, to his membership in the Lighthouse All-Stars. Jazz aficionados will relish Jazz Heavyweight for its new, never-before-published information about such hugely influential musicians as Parker, Gillespie, and Davis, while jazz neophytes will find a fast-paced, colorful encapsulation of the entire history of modern jazz. This book is essential reading for anyone seeking an up-close-and-personal look at jazz in the latter half of the twentieth century.” “Stan Levey was the drummer every be-bopper wanted in his rhythm section. And with good reason. Jazz Heavyweight illuminates his role as an ultimate insider and important player—musically and otherwise—during one of jazz history's most vital eras,” says veteran jazz critic Don Heckman in International Review of Music and according to Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney opines, “Stan Levey is without a doubt one of the greatest drummers ever and one of the founding fathers of modern music. Along with Klook, Max and Art, there was Stan Levey, who learned directly from Dizzy when they were both living in Philadelphia. As a result, Stan contributed to this beautiful art form and played on some pivotal recordings. Jazz Heavyweight is fascinating!” Photographs, bibliography, an appendix of brief biographies of the main individuals cited, index.
I found Letters to Yeyito: Lessons from a Life in Music (Restless Books), by Paquito D'Rivera and Rosario Moreno, fascinating. It contains “entertaining anecdotes, expert advice, and [Paquito’s] characteristic exuberance. [His] story is one of life on the move and finding a home in music.” I was one of the first jazz writers to publish articles about Paquito upon his 1980 defection to the U.S., in both the Washington Post and in JazzTimes. In a later piece on him (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1984/03/21/leaving-cuba-for-the-music/6928c5fa-5deb-472f-9d75-30916e007f63/), I previewed his upcoming gig at Charlie’s Georgetown in D.C. I recall the occasion of the 1977 concert in Havana that Paquito refers to in his book and in my Post profile of him. In addition to Dizzy Gillespie and Earl Hines, fifteen or so other American jazz musicians, including Stan Getz, David Amram, Joanne Brackeen, and Billy Hart, as well as JazzTimes founder and publisher Ira Sabin, made the voyage on the cruise ship Princess Daphne, and, shortly after his return to the U.S., I interviewed Ira on my WGTB-FM radio show Since Minton’s. He provided my listeners and me a fascinating account of the historic week, which took place during the Jimmy Carter administration.
Paul Youngquist’s A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism “I am bowled over. Youngquist explains—better than anyone before and, in many particular regards, for the first time—how Sun Ra’s poetically logical illogic and musically purposeful nothingness offered, and offers, a pathway for escaping the often-degrading experience of being African American in America. Youngquist dances seamlessly between hip insider talk and scholarly observation, between fiction and history, between celebration and criticism. This book is terrific, sensational. What a delight.” Barry Kernfeld, editor of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz and author of What to Listen for in Jazz. Photographs, notes, discography, bibliography, index. In the spring of 1977 I was at a Tuesday opening-night performance of the Sun Ra Arkestra at the Showboat in Silver Spring, Maryland, sitting with d. c. space founder/owner Bill Warrell a couple of tables away from Washington Star jazz writer Bill Bennett, who was reviewing for his paper. I was there to later—about 1 a.m., after the band’s four-hour set—tape an interview with Sun Ra for a special feature on him on my WGTB-FM Wednesday evening radio show Since Minton’s. I sent Bill Warrell over to Bill Bennett’s table to inform him that his club was to open imminently. Bill B. interviewed Bill W. and wrote an article on d. c. space for the Star. I used my interview with Ra as the basis for a profile of him in my The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990 (Oxford University Press, 1991). The Alabama-born pianist, bandleader, composer, and self-styled mystic not only told me about his musical career but regaled me with tales of fantastical adventures with aliens who had beamed him up to their celestial habitats for seminars on the future of Planet Earth.
I put Virgil Thomson’s Virgil Thompson: The State of Music & Other Writings (The Library of America), Tim Page, editor, here because it contains the author’s autobiography, along with his criticism, book reviews, and other writings. Thompson occasionally wrote on jazz and in this volume one finds some of that. It is “an unprecedented collection of polemical and autobiographical writings by America’s greatest composer-critic [and] a body of writing that constitutes America’s musical declaration of independence from the European past.” Photographs, notes, index.
James McBride’s Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul (Spiegel & Grau) “goes in search of the ‘real’ James Brown after receiving a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth. His surprising journey illuminates not only our understanding of this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown’s legacy. Kill ’Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Brown’s rough-and-tumble life, through McBride’s lens, is an unsettling metaphor for American life: the tension between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never-before-revealed history: the country town where Brown’s family and thousands of others were displaced by America’s largest nuclear power bomb-making facility; a South Carolina field where a long-forgotten cousin recounts, in the dead of night, a fuller history of Brown’s sharecropping childhood, which until now has been a mystery. McBride seeks out the American expatriate in England who co-created the James Brown sound, visits the trusted right-hand manager who worked with Brown for forty-one years, and interviews Brown’s most influential nonmusical creation, his ‘adopted son,’ the Reverend Al Sharpton. He describes the stirring visit of Michael Jackson to the Augusta, Georgia, funeral home where the King of Pop sat up all night with the body of his musical godfather, spends hours talking with Brown’s first wife, and lays bare the Dickensian legal contest over James Brown’s estate, a fight that has consumed careers; prevented any money from reaching the poor schoolchildren in Georgia and South Carolina, as instructed in his will; cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees; and left James Brown’s body to lie for more than eight years in a gilded coffin in his daughter’s yard in South Carolina.” ““Thoughtful and probing . . . with great warmth, insight and frequent wit. The results are partisan and enthusiastic, and they helped this listener think about the work in a new way. . . . James McBride’s welcome elucidation . . . is clear, deeply felt and unmistakable,” says Rick Moody, in the New York Times Book Review.
Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero (Chicago Review Press), by Ed Ward, Billy F. Gibbons, Foreword, “is the definitive biography of the legendary guitarist whom eminent figures like Muddy Waters and B. B. King held in high esteem, and who created the prototype for Clapton, Hendrix, Page, and everyone who followed. Bloomfield was one of the first popular music superstars of the 1960s to earn his reputation almost entirely on his instrumental prowess. He was a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which inspired a generation of white blues players; he played with Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s, when his guitar was a central component of Dylan’s new rock sound on “Like a Rolling Stone” and at his earthshaking 1965 Newport Folk Festival performance. He then founded the Electric Flag, recorded Super Session with Al Kooper, backed Janis Joplin, and released at least twenty other albums, despite debilitating substance abuse. He died of a mysterious drug overdose in 1981. A very limited edition of a book of this title was first published in 1983, but it has here been so thoroughly revised and expanded that it is essentially a brand-new publication. Based on extensive interviews with Bloomfield himself and with those who knew him best, and including an extensive discography and Bloomfield’s memorable 1968 Rolling Stone interview, Michael Bloomfield is an intimate portrait of one of the pioneers of rock guitar.” Photographs, discography, bibliography, index.
They're Playing Our Song: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster) by Carole Bayer Sager, “gives us a front row seat on the piano bench as she knocks out hit after hit with Marvin Hamlisch and Burt Bacharach, sits down with Bob Dylan in his barn, Michael Jackson in his studio, and Elizabeth Taylor on her bed (no, they didn’t churn out a hit, just a deep friendship). This is a funny, fast paced, heartfelt book by an accomplished and glamorous woman who openly shares her journey with us” enthuses Candice Bergen, and Steve Martin says it is a “delightful and funny tell all crammed with famous names and famous songs. Every few pages you'll say to yourself, ‘I didn't realize she wrote that.’” Photographs, appendix of songs composed by her.
Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol On The Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances (Doctor Licks Publishing), by Bobby Rydell and Allan Slutsky, is “Inspiring, gut-busting, and, at times, heartbreaking [and] gives you a front row seat to the turbulent, six decade journey of one of rock and roll’s earliest, and most celebrated teen idols [, whose] early success took a toll on his life.” The Huffington Post says, “Pure rock 'n roll nostalgia with a big dose of personal memories that will tear your heart out. . . . . another reason to embrace him even more!” and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette warns that it is “an autobiography laden with darkness and tragedy that would give even Keith Richards pause.” Photographs, discography, “On TV,” filmography.
Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene (Duke University Press), by Tim Lawrence, published several years ago, “is the first biography of the musician and composer Arthur Russell, one of the most important but least known contributors to New York’s downtown music scene during the 1970s and 1980s. . . . Based on interviews with more than seventy of his collaborators, family members, and friends, Hold On to Your Dreams provides vital new information about this singular, eccentric musician and his role in the boundary-breaking downtown music scene, . . . [tracing] Russell’s odyssey from his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, to countercultural San Francisco, and eventually to New York, where he lived from 1973 until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1992. Resisting definition while dreaming of commercial success, Russell wrote and performed new wave and disco as well as quirky rock, twisted folk, voice-cello dub, and hip-hop-inflected pop. ‘He was way ahead of other people in understanding that the walls between concert music and popular music and avant-garde music were illusory,’ comments the composer Philip Glass. ‘He lived in a world in which those walls weren’t there.’ Lawrence follows Russell across musical genres and through such vital downtown music spaces as the Kitchen, the Loft, the Gallery, the Paradise Garage, and the Experimental Intermedia Foundation. Along the way, he captures Russell’s openness to sound, his commitment to collaboration, and his uncompromising idealism.” Photographs, notes, discography, bibliography, index.
John Lydo’s Anger Is an Energy: My Life Uncensored (Dey Street Books/Harper Collins) is “the complete, unvarnished story of . . . the legendary frontman of the Sex Pistols life in his own words.” “A hilarious and at times touching account,” says Rolling Stone, and the Los Angeles Times opines, “Lydon is at his best when writing about his family - his parents were working-class Irish immigrants - and . . . quite moving in his account of Vicious.” Photographs, index.
In her Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir (Dey Street Books/William Morrow Publishers), Lita Ford “provides never-before-told details of [her] dramatic personal story. For Lita, life as a woman in the male-dominated rock scene was never easy, a constant battle with the music establishment. But then, at a low point in her career, came a tumultuous marriage that left her feeling trapped, isolated from the rock-and-roll scene for more than a decade, and—most tragically—alienated from her two sons. And yet, after a dramatic and emotional personal odyssey, Lita picked up her guitar and stormed back to the stage. As Guitar Player hailed in 2014 when they inducted her into their hall of fame of guitar greats: “She is as badass as ever. Fearless, revealing, and compulsively readable, Lita Ford’s Living Like a Runaway is the long-awaited memoir from one of rock’s greatest pioneers—and fiercest survivors.” “A vivid account of life as ‘the one-and-only guitar-playing rocker chick who could shred like I did.’ . . . . A fast-paced read . . . and an inspiring one.” Rolling Stone) Photographs.
The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Laura Claridge is “The untold story of Blanche Knopf, the singular woman who helped define American literature. . . . Blanche Knopf began her career when she founded Alfred A. Knopf with her husband in 1915. With her finger on the pulse of a rapidly changing culture, Blanche quickly became a driving force behind the firm. A conduit to the literature of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, Blanche also legitimized the hard-boiled detective fiction of writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler; signed and nurtured literary authors like Willa Cather, Elizabeth Bowen, and Muriel Spark; acquired momentous works of journalism by John Hersey and William Shirer; and introduced American readers to Albert Camus, André Gide, and Simone de Beauvoir, giving these French writers the benefit of her consummate editorial taste. As Knopf celebrates its centennial, Laura Claridge looks back at the firm’s beginnings and the dynamic woman who helped to define American letters for the twentieth century. Drawing on a vast cache of papers, Claridge also captures Blanche’s ‘witty, loyal, and amusing’ personality, and her charged yet oddly loving relationship with her husband. An intimate and often surprising biography, The Lady with the Borzoi is the story of an ambitious, seductive, and impossibly hardworking woman who was determined not to be overlooked or easily categorized.” Photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
2) PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTIONS, HISTORY, REFERENCE, CRITICISM, ETC.
Jazz: The Iconic Images of Ted Williams (ACC Editions). Photographer Ted Williams, who died in 2009, was active on the jazz scene from the late 1940s until the late ’70s, capturing Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and many others. Along with his prolific jazz photography, he also covered wars, sports and international cultures, his photos appearing in Time, Newsweek, Playboy, Ebony, JazzTimes, DownBeat, and other publications. This is a lavish, hefty (5 lbs.), and glorious coffee table production that will afford jazz lovers many hours of enjoyment and require many return trips for repeating the adventure of perusing Williams’ splendid images. Photographs of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Mahalia Jackson, Buddy Rich, Julian Cannonball, Adderley, Art Blakey, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus, Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins, Muddy Waters, Max Roach, Woody Herman and Wynton Marsalis, and many others, on stage and bandstand, backstage, at jams, hanging out on festival grounds, etc. Index.
Jim Marshall’s Jazz Festival (Reel Art Press), (Amelia Davis and Tony Nourmand, Editors, Nat Hentoff, Introduction, Bill Clinton, Foreword, Graham Marsh, , Designer), Features photos the shot at six Monterey (1960-66) and one Newport (1963) jazz festivals. The collection—published here for the first time and apparently the first of others the publisher will draw from the late Marshall’s (1936-2010) archive—is extraordinary for several reasons: it captures an era’s cultural styles, in music and dress; it documents the jazz world’s long-established stance vis-à-vis integration at a time when the greater society was still struggling to achieve this; and, in its uncanny capture of both the musicians in performance and the audiences in engagement with the music and the event, it puts the viewer at the scene in a way that no other volume of jazz photography, to my knowledge, succeeds in doing. Amazon reviewer Christine Savini puts it nicely: “If a major museum were looking for an exhibition of the great artists of Jazz's mid-century Golden Age, they would find it in Jim Marshall’s Jazz Festival. Not only are the images of the celebrated artists and their fans incredibly vivid and compelling, but the way this book also documents how Blacks and Whites easily integrated around their shared love of our truly American art form gives us hope at a time when we need it once again.” Index.
Bill Dahl’s and Chris James’s (Art Consultant) The Art of the Blues: A Visual Treasury of Black Music's Golden Age (University Of Chicago Press) “charts the rich history of the blues, through the dazzling array of posters, album covers, and advertisements that have shaped its identity over the past hundred years. The blues have been one of the most ubiquitous but diverse elements of American popular music at large, and the visual art associated with this unique sound has been just as varied and dynamic. There is no better guide to this fascinating graphical world than Bill Dahl—a longtime music journalist and historian who has written liner notes for countless reissues of classic blues, soul, R&B, and rock albums. With his deep knowledge and incisive commentary—complementing more than three hundred and fifty lavishly reproduced images—the history of the blues comes musically and visually to life.” “Art of the Blues provides a fascinating visual documentation of the music industry as well as insight into American culture. It’s difficult to quickly flip through this beautiful book because there are so many compelling images that deserve a closer look, whether it’s a publicity portrait of a young Etta James (taken by Hollywood photographer John E. Reed) or the 78 label of ‘Adam Bit the Apple,’ recorded by Big Joe Turner for Houston’s Freedom Recording Co., which used the Statue of Liberty as part of its graphics.” Bobby Reed Down Beat. Sorces, index.
Invitation To Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography Of Les McCann 1960-1980 (Fantagraphics), by Les McCann, curated by Pat Thomas and Alan Abrahams, with Foreword by A. Scott Galloway reveals a side of Les McCann that I—and likely many jazz and soul fans—was unaware of, namely, art photographer. This is a beautifully designed and masterfully produced book. It has, well, soul; that’s the appropriate word, for the artist whose work it contains is soulful from the word go, in his music and, as here displayed, in his approach to and execution of photography. “[The coffee table-size volume] collects the photographs of legendary musician Les McCann; he documented the jazz scene and its players―Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Count Basie, and many others―from the inside, across several decades. Throughout Les McCann’s incredible jazz career, he took hundreds of photos―at clubs, studios, and festivals around the world―and documented the vibrant cultural life of jazz and soul between 1960 and 1980. These photos include a very young Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sammy Davis Jr., John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Richard Pryor, Quincy Jones, Tina Turner, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, B.B. King, Errol Garner, Stanley Clarke, Bill Evans, Lionel Hampton, and other black celebrities, such as Bill Cosby, Muhammed Ali, and Stokely Carmichael to name but a few. These photos are characterized by their intimacy, and the cross-section of names listed is merely the tip of the iceberg. The book features candid commentary by McCann himself and is curated by Pat Thomas (Listen, Whitey!: The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975) and maverick music producer Alan Abrahams (Pure Prairie League, Joan Baez, Stanley Turrentine, Kris Kristofferson, Taj Mahal).” “If McCann never touched a piano in his life, he’d likely still have become famous as a photographer. The proof is in his new book, Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann, which collects many of his best pictures. Looking at McCann’s photographs, one gets the distinct sense of being in the room with the subjects. . . . In each case, McCann’s lens strips these icons of pretense, brushes away the dust of history, and leaves them not naked, not vulnerable, but open.” Travis Atria, Red Bull Music Academy. “One of the most thoroughly enjoyable parts of the book Invitation to Openness, alongside his insightful pictures, is McCann’s personal remembrances of his photographic subjects.” Chris M. Slawecki, All About Jazz.
Christopher Hillman’s Crescent City Reeds (http://www.chbooks.info)—companion volume to his 2015 Crescent City Cornet)—is a study of New Orleans clarinet and saxophone players active in the city and beyond with particular reference to the development of the movement from its beginnings in the Creole musical institutions, through its impact upon classic jazz and the white “Dixieland” style and rhythm-and-blues to its resurgence in the post-war revival of interest in New Orleans jazz. Foreword by Tony Standish. As I have observed in reviews of Hillman’s earlier books, he is a musical archaeologist, adept at unearthing all available information about the subjects of his investigations. Photographs, illustrations of record labels, bibliography, index, and a CD of 26 examples of the two label’s releases. A highly recommended text and a CD that will provide rewarding repeated listenings.
In my earlier reviews of Thomas Jacobsen’s books on New Orleans jazz, I pointed out that he lived in the city for a quarter of a century and prior to his residency was a frequent visitor. (He relocated to St. Louis in 2014.) His time in New Orleans was characterized by constant presence on the jazz scene and involvement in its community. He collected his impressions and recorded his data whenever he came into contact with that community. Nor did he limit his account to what is, clearly, his first musical love, traditional jazz. His outlook and taste are definitely catholic and his coverage comprehensive. Clearly, he is one of the leading authorities on New Orleans jazz in its myriad forms. His new book, The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today: A Guide to the Musicians, Live Jazz Venues, and More (Blue Bird Publishing), serves, as its sub-title indicates, as a handy guide to this city’s vibrant musical scene. Photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Michael Jarrett ‘s Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall (University of North Carolina Press) tells “the stories behind some of jazz's best-selling and most influential albums in this collection of oral histories gathered by music scholar and writer Michael Jarrett. Drawing together interviews with over fifty producers, musicians, engineers, and label executives, Jarrett shines a light on the world of making jazz records by letting his subjects tell their own stories and share their experiences in creating the American jazz canon. Packed with fascinating stories and fresh perspectives on over 200 albums and artists, including legends such as Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, as well as contemporary artists such as Diana Krall and Norah Jones, Pressed for All Time tells the unknown stories of the men and women who helped to shape the quintessential American sound.” “In his enlightening book, Michael Jarrett has produced a concise history of the innovative practices of jazz record production. While interviewing over fifty legendary producers who orchestrated albums with jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, and Billie Holiday, Jarrett, in turn, produces a rich and engaging oral history that will appeal to jazz aficionados, fans, and scholars alike,” says Susan Schmidt Horning, St. John's University. Illustrations, index.
Many of us in the jazz world have read Ben Ratliff’sNew York Times. Now, in his new book Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), we can get an overall sense of his set of aesthetic standards and taste and it is a very rewarding experience, for he is one of the most comprehensive observes of and commentators on the jazz scene as well as on that of popular music. In it, he examines what “it mean[s] to listen in the digital era . . . [and] reimagines the very idea of music appreciation for our times . . ., isolat[ing] signal musical traits―such as repetition, speed, and virtuosity―and trac[ing] them across wildly diverse recordings to reveal unexpected connections. . . . [and] considers what it means to hear emotion by sampling the complex sadness that powers . . . music . . . and examines the meaning of certain common behaviors, such as the impulse to document and possess the entire performance history of [a musician or a band]. Encompassing the sounds of five continents and several centuries, Ratliff’s book is an artful work of criticism and a lesson in open-mindedness. It is a definitive field guide to our radically altered musical habitat.” Sources, discography, index.
Murray Talks Music: Albert Murray on Jazz and Blues (University Of Minnesota Press) by Albert Murray, Paul Devlin, Editor, Greg Thomas, (Afterword), Gary Giddins (Foreword) brings together, for the first time, many of Murray’s finest interviews and essays on music—most never before published—as well as rare liner notes and prefaces. For those new to Murray, this book will be a perfect introduction, and those familiar with his work—even scholars—will be surprised, dazzled, and delighted. Highlights include Dizzy Gillespie’s richly substantive 1985 conversation; an in-depth 1994 dialogue on jazz and culture between Murray and Wynton Marsalis; and a long 1989 discussion on Duke Ellington between Murray, Stanley Crouch, and Loren Schoenberg. Also interviewed by Murray are producer and impresario John Hammond and singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine. All of thse conversations were previously lost to history. A celebrated educator and raconteur, Murray engages with a variety of scholars and journalists while making insightful connections among music, literature, and other art forms—all with ample humor and from unforeseen angles. Leading Murray scholar Paul Devlin contextualizes the essays and interviews in an extensive introduction, which doubles as a major commentary on Murray’s life and work. The volume also presents sixteen never-before-seen photographs of jazz greats taken by Murray.” “Albert Murray is . . . an authority on soul from the days of old . . . and commands respect. He doesn't have to look it up. If you want to know, look him up. He is the unsquarest person I know,” opined Duke Ellington. Photographs, discography, index.
Music in the Air: The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason (Yale University Press), edited by Gleason’s son Toby Gleason, “spans Ralph J. Gleason’s four decades as popular music’s preeminent commentator. Drawing from a rich variety of sources, including Gleason’s books, essays, interviews, and LP record album liner notes, it is essential reading for writers, historians, scholars, and music lovers of every stripe.” Included are Gleason’s interviews with Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Horace Silver, Quincy Jones, and a half-dozen more luminaries of jazz. Foreword by Ted Gioia.
Jazz on My Mind: Liner Notes, Anecdotes and Conversations from the 1940s to the 2000s (McFarland & Company), co-authored by Herb Wong and Paul Simeon Fingerote, “is a delightful and substantial addition to jazz commentary, full of the vivid anecdotes and insightful, accessible analysis of the late Dr. Herb Wong, a lifelong enthusiast and acclaimed educator who came to work with and know the musical heroes he depicts here. With exemplary assistance from Paul Fingerote, longtime marketing and public relations director of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Dr. Wong selected and shaped his memories and his earlier writings into a volume that stands tall among those concerning composers and performers of the second half of the 20th century whose sounds will ring forever," says Howard Mandel, author and president of the Jazz Journalists Association. Photograph, index.
The Sounds of Louisiana, The: Twenty Essential Music Makers (Pelican Publishing Company), with informative text by Roger Hahn and beautiful painted portraits by Chris Osborne, “provides an overview of Louisiana’s impressive role in the musical heritage of the last two centuries . . . document[ing] twenty musicians and musical groups who have—and still are—shaping the face of music in America. Among those profiled are Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Lead Belly, Mahalia Jackson, Clifton Chenier, the Boswell Sisters, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Irma Thomas, Buddy Guy, Li’l Wayne, Allen Toussaint, Harry Connick Jr., Trombone Shorty, and Ben Jaffe, the last named in an account of Preservation Hall. Bibliography.
Rhythm in the Rain: Jazz in the Pacific Northwest (Ooligan Press) by Lynn Darroch, Foreword by George Colligan, “examines the people, places, and events that have made cities like Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, so popular among musicians. From the genesis of [Seattle’s] Jackson Street and [Portland’s] Williams Avenue in the 1940s & ’50s with such legends as Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, to the modern voices of George Colligan, Rebecca Kilgore, and Esperanza Spalding, this book aims to encompass and illuminate the rich musical history of a region that, while not widely recognized as a jazz mecca, has seen its relevance within the local community.” And it does so very well, bringing recognition to a great many deserving and world-class musicians who otherwise would remain in obscurity. I am all for such regional histories. In an essay in his Jazz: The American Theme Song, jazz historian James Lincoln Collier makes the significant point that the so-called “local” jazz scene is peopled not only by dedicated amateurs but also by “musician[s] of the first quality.” He adds, “It often turns out that such players were once 'on the road with Woody [Herman].” Or played on their own turf alongside visiting musicians of global fame, as many in Darroch’s book have done. I would have liked to see more coverage of the 1950s and ’60s traditional jazz scene, such as Seattle’s Rainy City Jazz Band, which was, as the West Coast’s longest active New Orleans-style unit, had a half-century run. I caught it many times during the 1950s and got to know its members, when I was earning a B.A. in history and an M.A. in Greek and Latin at the University of Washington. Photographs, notes, index.
Although its author writes primarily on cinema, you’ll find several index entries for “jazz” and its musicians (e.g., Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Max Roach) as well as “rock ’n’ roll” and a few for such icons of popular music as Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, and the Sex Pistols in New York Times critic A. O. Scott’s Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth (Penguin Press). In his book, along with film, Scott cruises through literature (Hesiod, Horace, Shelly, Charles Dickens, Henry James, George Gissing, Allen Ginsberg) and criticism (Edmund Wilson, Elizabeth Hardwick, Harold Bloom). “Impassioned and deeply thoughtful . . . Scott lays out a taxonomy of meaningful thought (and the meaning of thought itself) . . . . His disciplined reasoning, impressive erudition, and deep commitment to his art (as he defines it) are never less than provocative and elegantly articulated. A zealous and well-considered work of advocacy for an art too often unappreciated and misunderstood,” says Kirkus. “This stunning treatise on criticism from . . . is a complete success, comprehensively demonstrating the value of his art . . . a necessary work that may enter the canon of great criticism.” Publisher's Weekly. Index.
Listening to Jazz (Oxford University Press) by Benjamin Bierman, is described as “offer[ing] an engaging introduction to the rich history and culture of jazz. Featuring coverage of all standard periods and genres, this text helps students understand how jazz evolved and how its various styles intersect and blend. A wealth of innovative features, including a series of sidebars, in-depth listening guides, the incorporation of Spanish-Caribbean and women musicians, and historic introductions enhance students’ appreciation for this powerful and important genre of music.” To say that it covers “all standard periods and genres” is inaccurate in that it ignores the 1940s New Orleans Revival and the musicians who participated in it. British critic Max Harrison, in a footnote to an essay on Bunk Johnson in his A Jazz Retrospecive (David & Charles, 1976/Interlink Publishing+group Inc., 2nd edition, 1991), sheds light on why this phenomenon is too often omitted from studies purporting to cover “all genres and periods of jazz”: “American writers have persistently ignored this phase of jazz, and such works as Martin Williams’ Jazz Masters of New Orleans (New York, 1967) and Gunther Schuller’s Early Jazz (New York, 1968) are typical in making no attempt to discuss the musical value and historical meaning of the American Music [label] and allied recordings.” The cited label was founded by jazz historian William Russell in 1944 and was devoted to recordings of musicians like trumpeter Bunk Johnson, clarinetist George Lewis, trombonist Jim Robinson, and many others, some of whom had remained in New Orleans and, beginning in the 1960s, played at Preservation Hall, a few of them touring here and abroad. One will not find any of these major musicians of the New Orleans style listed in the index of Listening to Jazz. Having said that, I found the book quite fascinating. It is a reference tool, a guide, and a browsing joy. Bruce Raeburn, Tulane University, author of New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History, clearly concurs, enthusing, “Bierman writes clearly and with an engaging style. His step-by-step breakdown and analysis of recorded examples are the best part.” Photographs, listening guides and bibliographies for each section, glossary, index.
Ted Gioia’s How to Listen to Jazz (Basic Books) not only goes a long way toward living up to its title’s claim but is an excellent guide to the outlines of jazz history. I would without hesitation put it into the hands of someone asking, “What is jazz?” And this longtime observer of, reader about, and listener to jazz found in it many nuggets of information that he had let slip out of his memory. Gioia touches the essential bases and includes appreciation and analysis of the important players (with one significant omission, which I’ll get to shortly). It truly “presents a lively, accessible introduction to the art of listening to jazz. Covering everything from the music’s structure and history to the basic building blocks of improvisation, Gioia shows exactly what to listen for in a jazz performance. He shares listening strategies that will help readers understand and appreciate jazz for the rest of their lives, and provides a history of the major movements in jazz right up to the present day. . . . How does a casual listener learn to understand and appreciate the nuances between the unapologetic and innovative sounds of Louis Armstrong, the complexity of Coleman Hawkin’s saxophone, and the exotic and alluring compositions of Duke Ellington? How does Thelonius Monk fit in alongside Benny Goodman and John Coltrane? [Gioia] concludes with a guide to 150 elite musicians who are setting the tone for 21st century jazz.” This is an excellent guide that covers all styles from early New Orleans jazz to the present. The index helps the reader, and listener, find his or her favorite as well as musicians he or she is unfamiliar with and wishes to know better. Gioia is a jazz pianist and author of several other highly regarded books on jazz and blues. I find one omission startling, to wit, that Gioia makes no mention of Earl Hines in the book, not even when he discusses Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5 and Hot 7 recording of the 1920s. Of “Weather Bird,” a duet between Hines and Armstrong recorded in December 1928, author and critic Martin Williams said, “One is astounded to realize how far these two men had brought jazz improvisation in a mere five years.” Musician, scholar and composer Gunther Schuller insists that the sextet version of the King Oliver composition “West End Blues,” recorded six months earlier and on which Hines was at the piano, “served notice that jazz had the potential capacity to compete with the highest order of previously known musical expression.” Duke Ellington said of Hines, “The seeds of bop were in Earl Hines’ piano style.” “We were just recording," Earl told me (W. Royal Stokes) in an interview in the mid-1970s, “and ideas came from us while we were at the studio. I’d say, ‘Louis, make this,’ and he’d say, ‘No, I don’t think I’ve got strength enough to make that.’ That's the kind of conversation we had, and when we made ‘Weather Bird,’ for instance, Louis said, ‘I’ll start playing sixteen bars and you think about another eight bars and I’ll just follow you.’ And we laughed about it when it was over. Like we were saying before Louis passed, he said, ‘We didn’t know we were making history, did we?’ And I said, ‘We certainly didn't!’” I also fine it odd that Gioia makes no mention of Lionel Hampton or Bunk Johnson. In his 1997 History of Jazz, Hampton, whose presence in jazz was ubiquitous and his influence widespread, is accorded mentions verifying this truth. As to Bunk Johnson, Gioia’s History of Jazz devotes three pages to the New Orleans Revival of the 1940s and its players, among whom Bunk was prominent and revered, and he concedes that the movement was “a powerful force.” Yet he omits mention of it on page 122 of How to Listen to Jazz, where he makes a transition from the big bands of the Swing Era to the combos of bebop. How to Listen to Jazz contains an appendix of “The Elite 150 of Early- and Mid-Career Jazz Masters” (i.e., artists born in the 1960s, “many of them . . . still in the early stages of their musical evolution”), notes, and an index.
Depression Folk: Grassroots Music and Left-Wing Politics in 1930s America (University of North Carolina Press), by Ronald D. Cohen, “sheds new light on the complex cultural history of folk music in America, detailing the musicians, government agencies, and record companies that had a lasting impact during the 1930s and beyond. Covering myriad musical styles and performers, Cohen narrates a singular history that begins in nineteenth-century labor politics and popular music culture, following the rise of unions and Communism to the subsequent Red Scare and increasing power of the Conservative movement in American politics--with American folk and vernacular music centered throughout. Detailing the influence and achievements of such notable musicians as Pete Seeger, Big Bill Broonzy, and Woody Guthrie, Cohen explores the intersections of politics, economics, and race, using the roots of American folk music to explore one of the United States' most troubled times. Becoming entangled with the ascending American left wing, folk music became synonymous with protest and sharing the troubles of real people through song.” “[A] compelling, engaging, and highly readable account of the indelible, influential, and important style of music we associate with the Great Depression. A much-needed work that fills a void in the scholarship of the labor movement and folk music in the 1930s.” Timothy Lynch, author of Strike Songs of the Depression. Illustrations, notes, index.
Simon Reynolds’ Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-first Century (Dey Street Books) is “the definitive cultural history of glam and glitter rock, celebrating its outlandish fashion and outrageous stars, including David Bowie and Alice Cooper, and tracking its vibrant legacy in contemporary pop. Spearheaded by David Bowie, Alice Cooper, T. Rex, and Roxy Music, glam rock reveled in artifice and spectacle. Reacting against the hairy, denim-clad rock bands of the late Sixties, glam was the first true teenage rampage of the new decade. In Shock and Awe, Simon Reynolds takes you on a wild cultural tour through the early Seventies, a period packed with glitzy costumes and alien make-up, thrilling music and larger-than-life personas.” Photographs, bibliography, index.
I included Ian Chapman’s Experiencing David Bowie: A Listener's Companion (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) in my roundup of 2015 books. Now we have David Bowie The Last Interview and Other Conversations (Melville House), with Introduction by Dennis Johnson. “In this remarkable collection [1965-2006], Bowie reveals the fierce intellectualism, artistry, and humor behind it all. From his very first interview—as a teenager on the BBC, before he was even a musician—to his last, Bowie takes on the most probing questions, candidly discussing his sexuality, his drug usage, his sense of fashion, how he composed, and more. For fans still mourning his passing, as well as for those who know little about him, it's a revealing, interesting, and inspiring look at one of the most influential artists of the last fifty years. ” “David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.” Iggy Pop “I wish he could have stayed on earth longer.” J.K. Rowling “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.” Kanye West
Tim Lawrence’s Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983 “Tim Lawrence connects the dots of a scene so explosively creative, so kaleidoscopically diverse, so thrillingly packed with the love of music and the love of life that even those of us who were there could not have possibly seen or heard it all! Now we can. Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980–1983 is not only a remarkable account of a remarkable time, it is a moving memorial to all those who left the party much too soon.” Ann Magnuson, writer, actress, and former Club 57 manager and NYC Downtown performance artist. Photographs, notes, filmography, discography, bibliography.
In Robert A. Cutietta’s Who Knew?: Answers to Questions about Classical Music you Never Thought to Ask (Oxford University Press), “master music educator Cutietta provides lucid answers to 150 questions submitted by listeners to his popular weekly radio program. Through its pages, this highly readable guide touches on some of the most curiosity-inducing aspects of the tradition, from why audiences refrain from applauding between movements to how opera singers warm up on the night of a big debut. The responses are drawn from conversations with professional musicians and music educators, with additional contributions by Gail Eichenthal of KUSC, giving a rare glimpse into how musicians think and talk about their work. Lovers of classical music who would like to flesh out their understanding are sure to find a powerful resource in Cutietta's down-to-earth guide, and even seasoned listeners are sure to learn a thing or two. This book will provide hours of enjoyment as readers invariably shake their heads and ask in wonderment, ‘Who knew!’” “For the past decade, Cutietta has been demystifying classical music for KUSC listeners in Los Angeles. Who Knew? captures the very best of his ‘Ask the Dean’ segment, illuminating the aspects of orchestral music that even its most avid listeners can find perplexing. Who Knew? is a lively, engaging, and affectionate dive into the music we love so much,” says Deborah Borda, President and C.E.O., Los Angeles Philharmonic. Index
Banjoist Cynthis Sayer’s You’re In the Band (cynthiasayer.com) includes classic tunes popularly played in traditional jazz/hot jazz bands; two CDs (or downloads); each tune in 2 speeds: “Gig Tempo” & Practice Tempo”; playing tips & traditions you should know; Lingo & Definitions; lead sheets with lyrics in concert key, B♭, E♭, and bass clef; chord charts; and tune layouts. Also available (as downloads only, $9.99 per set): all tracks minus trumpet & all tracks minus banjo. Here are the play-along tunes: Avalon; Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me; China Boy; Darktown Strutters’ Ball; Down By The Riverside; Just A Closer Walk With Thee; My Gal Sal; Some Of These Days; Take Me Out To The Ball Game; The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; When The Saints Go Marching In; Whispering. The musicians are Cynthia Sayer, banjo, arrangements; Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Mike Weatherly, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums. “A wonderful and helpful work that will instruct young players who are learning about playing traditional jazz. Also a great refresher for musicians already established and playing this style of music.” says bandleader and multi- instrumentalist Vince Giordano. “You’re In The Band offers the opportunity to develop, hone and master one’s skills for playing jazz by using the best teaching technique known to date, actually playing in the band. I highly recommend this method,” says trombonist Wycliffe Gordon.
Of Ken Hatfield’s 12 Preludes For Solo Guitar (http://kenhatfield.com/presss/12-preludes-for-solo-guitar/), Travis Rogers, Jr. (The Jazz Owl, at JazzTimes Community), says, “The book contains, of course, the music for the 12 preludes but also a fine introduction by Hatfield wherein he describes his notation of pitch durations in arpeggios (the same used by Johannes Brahms in his late piano solos. Don’t be impressed. I learned it from Hatfield), the modal indicators of key signatures and more. All that to say, Hatfield will teach you something. He writes of the beginnings of the prelude and its place within music history. He speaks of Chopin, Debussy, Villa-Lobos and so many others. He is a fine educator, even if you are reading for fun. The book contains a small biography and, perhaps most importantly, his discography and bibliography of his written works. Yes, you will want to reference those pages early and often.”
Arthur Beane, Ed.D’s Waitin’ for Her at the Station: A Collection of Original Blues, Country Blues, Jazz Blues, Gospel, Funk, and Blues Rock Selections (Rafes Chasm Literary Digest/Outskirts Press) is a “unique songbook, a must-have for any blues-lover’s musical library. Waitin for Her at the Station provides musicians—trained and untrained—with the latitude to choose their own key, tempo, song type, introduction, solo instrumental placement, and outro. The song lyrics remain true, but the formatting can be modified based on the spirit of the musician and their interpretation of each song, and audiences will enjoy the personalized presentations as much as the performer!”
Jack Viertel’s The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) “takes [musicals] apart, puts them back together, sings their praises, marvels at their unflagging inventiveness, and occasionally despairs over their more embarrassing shortcomings. In the process, he invites us to fall in love all over again by showing us how musicals happen, what makes them work, how they captivate audiences, and how one landmark show leads to the next―by design or by accident, by emulation or by rebellion―from Oklahoma! to Hamilton and onward.” “Both revelatory and entertaining. Viertel combines a scholarly approach with a light touch that enables us to see anew familiar songs and musical theater moments we'd long taken for granted," says the New York Times Book Review. “Listening to Broadway” (which is an annotated list of recordings), index.
In his The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places (Duke University Press), Bernie Krause “shares fascinating insight into how deeply animals rely on their aural habitat to survive and the damaging effects of extraneous noise on the delicate balance between predator and prey. But natural soundscapes aren't vital only to the animal kingdom; Krause explores how the myriad voices and rhythms of the natural world formed a basis from which our own musical expression emerged. From snapping shrimp, popping viruses, and the songs of humpback whales-whose voices, if unimpeded, could circle the earth in hours-to cracking glaciers, bubbling streams, and the roar of intense storms; from melody-singing birds to the organlike drone of wind blowing over reeds, the sounds Krause has experienced and describes are like no others. And from recording jaguars at night in the Amazon rain forest to encountering mountain gorillas in Africa's Virunga Mountains, Krause offers an intense and intensely personal narrative of the planet's deep and connected natural sounds and rhythm. The Great Animal Orchestra is the story of one man’s pursuit of natural music in its purest form, and an impassioned case for the conservation of one of our most overlooked natural resources—the music of the wild.” Notes, bibliography, index.
Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker's Journey (Thomas Dunne Books), by Harlan Lebo, “is the story of a film masterpiece―how it was created and how it was almost destroyed. It is the celebration of brilliant achievement and a sinister tale of conspiracy, extortion, and Communist witch hunts. It is the chronicle of a plot orchestrated in boardrooms and a mountaintop palace, as a media company that claimed to stand for ‘genuine democracy’ defied the First Amendment and schemed to burn Hollywood’s greatest creation. Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journey is the extraordinary story of the production of Orson Welles’ classic film, using previously unpublished material from studio files and the Hearst organization, exclusive interviews with the last surviving members of the cast and crew, and what may be the only surviving copies of the ‘lost’ final script. Harlan Lebo charts the meteoric rise to stardom of the twenty-three-year-old Orson Welles, his defiance of the Hollywood system, and the unprecedented contract that gave him near-total creative control of his first film. Lebo recounts the clashes between Welles and studio executives eager to see him fail, the high-pressure production schedule, and the groundbreaking results. Lebo reveals the plot by the organization of publisher William Randolph Hearst to attack Hollywood, discredit Welles, and incinerate the film. And, at last, he follows the rise of Citizen Kane to its status as the greatest film ever made.” “The most thorough account yet of the genesis, production and release of Welles's most famous film.” New York Times Book Review Photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Hollywood South: Glamour, Gumbo, and Greed (Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.), by Linda Thurman, “follows the rise and subsequent corruption of Hollywood South. Intimately acquainted with the conspiracy to manipulate and control the Louisiana film industry (which resulted in several arrests), Thurman sheds light on the convoluted relationship between politics and entertainment in both Hollywood and Louisiana. Part memoir and part exposé, Thurman’s stories are both riveting and revealing—everything expected from a good Hollywood tale!” “A must-read for anyone crazy enough to actually want work in film or TV.” Koji Steven Sakai, screenwriter/producer
Michael Schulman’s Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep (Harper) is a “portrait of a woman, an era, and a profession: the first thoroughly researched biography of Meryl Streep—the ‘Iron Lady’ of acting, nominated for nineteen Oscars and winner of three—that explores her beginnings as a young woman of the 1970s grappling with love, feminism, and her astonishing talent [and] an intimate look at the artistic coming-of-age of the greatest actress of her generation, from the homecoming float at her suburban New Jersey high school, through her early days on the stage at Vassar College and the Yale School of Drama during its golden years, to her star-making roles in The Deer Hunter, Manhattan, and Kramer vs. Kramer. New Yorker contributor Michael Schulman brings into focus Meryl’s heady rise to stardom on the New York stage; her passionate, tragically short-lived love affair with fellow actor John Cazale; her marriage to sculptor Don Gummer; and her evolution as a young woman of the 1970s wrestling with changing ideas of feminism, marriage, love, and sacrifice. Featuring eight pages of black-and-white photos, this captivating story of the making of one of the most revered artistic careers of our time reveals a gifted young woman coming into her extraordinary talents at a time of immense transformation, offering a rare glimpse into the life of the actress long before she became an icon. Photographs, notes.
The Brazen Age: New York City and the American Empire: Politics, Art, and Bohemia (Pantheon), by David Reid, is “a brilliant, sweeping, and unparalleled look at the extraordinarily rich culture and turbulent politics of New York City between the years 1945 and 1950. . . . Reid draws a portrait of the frenzied, creative energy of a bohemian Greenwich Village, from the taverns to the salons. Revolutionaries, socialists, and intelligentsia in the 1910s were drawn to the highly provocative monthly magazine The Masses, which attracted the era’s greatest talent, from John Reed to Sherwood Anderson, Djuna Barnes, John Sloan, and Stuart Davis. And summoned up is a chorus of witnesses to the ever-changing landscape of bohemia, from Malcolm Cowley to Anaïs Nin. Also present are the pioneering photographers who captured the city in black-and-white: Berenice Abbott’s dizzying aerial views, Samuel Gottscho’s photographs of the waterfront and the city’s architectural splendor, and Weegee’s masterful noir lowlife.” That said—in the publisher’s PR description—the volume gives short shrift to jazz (and popular music), notwithstanding that the city was at the time (and remains) the Jazz Mecca. I found index entries for Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman, who are mentioned in passing, but none for Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, or any other jazz musicians. Reminds me of critic Dwight McDonald complaining of that “no composers of any note were present” at the 1965 White House Festival of the Arts—yet the Duke Ellington band performed “Black, Brown and Beige” at it! I have to say, though, that The Brazen Age is a fascinating account of the period when I was in the second half of my teens, 1945-50. I was several months short of my fifteenth birthday when I arrived home from school and found my mother in tears—Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died earlier that day. Reid’s chapter on FDR was very moving for me. Photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
I’m a sucker for collections of essays on literature and so found much of interest in Benjamin Percy’s Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction (Graywolf Press), “challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. The title essay is an ode to the kinds of books that make many readers fall in love with fiction: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, horror, from J.R.R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King. Percy's own academic experience banished many of these writers in the name of what is ‘literary’ and what is ‘genre.’ Then he discovered Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and others who employ techniques of genre fiction while remaining literary writers. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws, Blood Meridian, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue. An urgent and entertaining missive on craft, Thrill Me brims with Percy's distinctive blend of anecdotes, advice, and close reading, all in the service of one dictum: Thrill the reader.”
Joel Selvin’s Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day (Dey Street Books) “tells the definitive story of the Rolling Stones’ infamous Altamont concert in San Francisco, the disastrous historic event that marked the end of the idealistic 1960s. In the annals of rock history, the Altamont Speedway Free Festival on December 6, 1969, has long been seen as the distorted twin of Woodstock—the day that shattered the Sixties’ promise of peace and love when a concertgoer was killed by a member of the Hells Angels, the notorious biker club acting as security. While most people know of the events from the film Gimme Shelter, the whole story has remained buried in varied accounts, rumor, and myth—until now. Altamont explores rock’s darkest day, a fiasco that began well before the climactic death of Meredith Hunter and continued beyond that infamous December night. Joel Selvin probes every aspect of the show—from the Stones’ hastily planned tour preceding the concert to the bad acid that swept through the audience to other deaths that also occurred that evening—to capture the full scope of the tragedy and its aftermath. He also provides an in-depth look at the Grateful Dead’s role in the events leading to Altamont, examining the band’s behind-the-scenes presence in both arranging the show and hiring the Hells Angels as security. The product of twenty years of exhaustive research and dozens of interviews with many key players, including medical staff, Hells Angels members, the stage crew, and the musicians who were there, and featuring sixteen pages of color photos, Altamont is the ultimate account of the final event in rock’s formative and most turbulent decade.” >. Photographs, bibliography, index.
Cajuns and Other Characters: True Stories from South Louisiana (Pelican Publishing Company), by Jim Bradshaw “delivers bite-sized stories from the heart of Cajun Country. Whether they’re about characters from the page or players on the political stage, paupers or authors, musicians or physicians, teachers or preachers, these spirited vignettes celebrate the quirky history and rich culture of Acadiana. Famous names like Huey P. Long and Evangeline rub shoulders with lesser-known personalities, such as the “First and Only Eternal King Crawfish” and Father Forge’s pet monkeys. This collection of essays, from the wildly popular newspaper column C’est Vrai, celebrates the politics, sports, music, and, most of all, people of the Pelican State.” “Journalist Jim Bradshaw has won numerous awards for his spot news reporting, feature writing, editorial commentary, and investigative reporting in his more than fifty years of reporting. He earned his degree in English and journalism from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a minor in history and has since pursued his twin passions of journalism and history. Bradshaw has been recognized as one of South Louisiana’s Living Legends by the Acadian Museum, awarded the Prix de Louisiane for his writing on Cajun culture by the Council for Development of French in Louisiana, and honored by the Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society for “conspicuous attainment and scholarship in the field of history.” Photographs, bibliography.
I’ve read all of Zadie Smith’s five novels and a number of her essays and am convinced that she is a major literary voice of our time, both in her fiction and as critic. Her Swing Time (Penguin Press) is noteworthy in that it gives expression to vital contemporary societal concerns and couches them in musical metaphors, for its protagonist “has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free.” “This is a story at once intimate and global, as much about childhood friendship as international aid, as fascinated by the fate of an unemployed single mother as it is by the omnipotence of a world-class singer. . . . Smith’s attention to the grace notes of friendship is as precise as ever. . . . Swing Time uses its extraordinary breadth and its syncopated structure to turn the issues of race and class in every direction. . . . We finally have a big social novel nimble enough to keep all its diverse parts moving gracefully toward a vision of what really matters in this life when the music stops,” enthuses Ron Charles in the Washington Post.
West of Eden: An American Place (Random House), by Jean Stein, “is a stunning exploration of five families who made Los Angeles what it is. Gossipy, dark, rich, mesmerizing,” says author Joan Didion. “If there is anyone still laboring under the delusion that great wealth and a couple of palm trees bring happiness, Jean Stein’s long-awaited oral history of Los Angeles, West of Eden, should put that notion to rest. . . . It is probably not an exaggeration to say that West of Eden is the most intelligent, painstakingly researched work of schadenfreude yet produced,” opines Katie Roiphe in Town & Country. Photographs, “Biographical Notes.”
Arthur Lubow’s Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (Ecco) is “The definitive biography of the beguiling Diane Arbus, one of the most influential and important photographers of the twentieth century, a brilliant and absorbing exposition that links the extraordinary arc of her life to her iconic photographs. [It] brings into focus with vividness and immediacy one of the great American artists of the twentieth century. Arbus comes startlingly to life on these pages, a strong-minded child of disconcerting originality who grew into a formidable photographer of unflinching courage. Arbus forged an intimacy with her subjects that has inspired generations of artists. Arresting, unsettling, and poignant, her photographs stick in our minds. Why did these people fascinate her? And what was it about her that captivated them? It is impossible to understand the transfixing power of Arbus’s photographs without exploring her life. Lubow draws on exclusive interviews with Arbus’s friends, lovers, and colleagues; on previously unknown letters; and on his own profound critical insights into photography to explore Arbus’s unique perspective and to reveal important aspects of her life that were previously unknown or unsubstantiated. He deftly traces Arbus’s development from a wealthy, sexually precocious free spirit into first, a successful New York fashion photographer and then, a singular artist who coaxed secrets from her subjects. Lubow reveals that Arbus’s profound need not only to see her subjects but to be seen by them drove her to forge unusually close bonds with these people, helping her discover the fantasies, pain, and heroism within each of them, and leading her to create a new kind of photographic portraiture charged with an unnerving complicity between the subject and the viewer. Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer brushes aside the clichés that have long surrounded Arbus and her work. It is a magnificently absorbing biography of this unique, hugely influential artist.” Photographs, notes, index.
I’ve read several reviews of Stephen Witt’s How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Viking) and also Lorin Stein’s essay “Words Unwired” in the January 10, 2016 New York Times Book Review, which dealt with the effect of the Internet on the book publishing scene. Frankly, for someone like yours truly, who came up in a different world with, initially, 78RPMs, then LPs and CDs, and has always cherished holding a book (not a Kindle) in his hands, the recording industry and publishing worlds world seem not just “Unwired” but unhinged. Witt, who was born in New Hampshire in 1979, raised in the Midwest, and now lives in Brooklyn, graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in mathematics in 2001 and from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2011. He has played the stock market and worked hedge funds and spent two years in East Africa working in economic development. His book, which has won some Best Book of the Year awards, “is a riveting story of obsession, music, crime, and money, featuring visionaries and criminals, moguls and tech-savvy teenagers. It’s about the greatest pirate in history, the most powerful executive in the music business, a revolutionary invention and an illegal website four times the size of the iTunes Music Store.” Notes, index.
A virtual raft of books arrived here in March from Pelican Publishing Company, which is located in, you guessed it, the Pelican State. All deal in aspects of Louisiana culture. The delightful Parade (Pelican Publishing Company) by Alexis Braud, is geared toward ages three to eight and concerns a mouse who “didn’t want cheese, or cool lemonade/That mouse, well he wanted to lead a parade.” And that is just what he did, joined by a “tabby cat,” “two fluffy dogs,” squirrels, raccoons, a goat, a pig, “a small troupe of rats,” “high-stepping egrets,” “a big mama possum,” “a couple of friendly alligators in fine evening outfits,” pigeons, and a pelican (of course!) on “a seat on a cart whose mule was clip-clopping his feet . . . [and that cart was] soon filled up with a load of fine critters.” The color-splashed illustrations are very appealing, depicting the paraders in their parade attire. It is altogether a splendid volume that youngsters will much enjoy many listenings to or readings of. Also in the heavy package were: New Orleans Mardi Gras Moments (Pelican Publishing Company), with text by Peggy Laborde and photographs by Judi Bottoni, which tells “not only the story of Mardi Gras but . . . capture[s] the spirit of Carnival that is so important to our culture in this city. The pictures tell more than a thousand words; they bring you into the heart of the Mardi Gras experience.” Eric Paulsen, anchor, WWL-TV Eyewitness News and photographer for Sally-Ann Roberts’ Your Power Is On!: A Little Book of Hope (Pelican Publishing). Voices of Angels: Disaster Lessons from Katrina Nurses (Pelican Publishing Company), by Gail Tumulty and John Batty “offer[s] analysis and recommendations for healthcare institutions nationwide” and is “an invaluable resource for healthcare professionals and consumers who need their care and a testament to the character of the men and women who worked under these incredible circumstances. . . . Coauthors John R. Batty and Gail Tumulty interviewed dozens of nurses and healthcare workers after Hurricane Katrina and presented their findings at the American Nurses’ Association conference. In those interviews, collected in this volume, the nurses spoke about their experiences caring for patients at New Orleans hospitals and medical centers, including the Veterans Affairs Hospital, Charity Hospital, University Hospital, and Ochsner Medical Center. Batty and Tumulty’s additional lessons and disaster preparedness plans make this book an invaluable resource for healthcare professionals and consumers who need their care and a testament to the character of the men and women who worked under these incredible circumstances.” Photographs, bibliography, notes, index. Rhythm and Blues In New Orleans (Pelican Publishing Company), by John Broven, a contributing writer for the British magazine Blues Unlimited and author of South to Louisiana: the Music of the Cajun Bayous (Pelican Publishing Company), is “newly revised for this edition, much of the material com[ing] firsthand from those who helped create the [R&B] genre, including Fats Domino, Ray Charles, and Wardell Quezergue.” Photographs, bibliography, notes, index. Louisiana, the Jewel of the Deep South (Pelican Publishing Company), with text by Johnette Downing, illustrated by Julia Marshall, and geared toward ages five to eight, “takes you through a tour of the state’s famous symbols. Did you know that the crawfish is the state crustacean? Or that the Catahoula is the state dog? And what is more emblematic of Louisiana than gumbo and sweet beignets? All this and more is revealed in this charming picture book, brimming with rich illustrations. A timeline, which lists when these icons were named, and original song compliment the text and enhance the book’s classroom applications.” At the bottom of the stack in the box from Pelican Publishing Company was the pièce de résistance, Kerri McCaffety’s gorgeous New Orleans at Night: The Magic of the Crescent City After Dark (Pelican Publishing Company). The epigraph preceding the author/photographer’s Introduction is, fittingly, by another pictorial artist, Vincent van Gogh: “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” I have wandered the Crescent City at night (as well as by day) and McCaffety’s sublime art and technically precise images evoke many memories. She has an eye—and has the skills to apply it to the scenes she captures in superb color. This is a keeper and will long retain a place on my coffee table. “Kerri’s work is lush with natural light that makes the images sensual and rich, and transforms the places she photographs into poems,” says Francis Ford Coppola.
Kwame Alexander’s Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band (Sleeping Bear Press), illustrated by Tim Bowers and aimed at ages six to nine, is a delight and jazz-inclined parents will enjoy introducing it to their offspring. “When a jazz-loving rooster sets his sights on winning a barnyard talent show, he realizes he can't do it as a solo act. He's up against the talents of Mules Davis’s cool duo and Ella Finchgerald’s singing group. Acoustic Rooster calls on friends like pianist Duck Ellington, singer Bee Holiday, and percussionist piggy Pepe Ernesto Cruz. Together, the foursome makes beautiful music as they rock the barnyard. And while they may not win first prize, Acoustic Rooster realizes he has the world's best jazz band and that's all that matters. Colorful artwork from artist Tim Bowers (Memoirs of a Goldfish) ensures this story doesn’t miss a beat. A glossary of musical terms and instruments rounds out this perfect introduction to jazz for young readers. Kwame Alexander is a poet, publisher, and an award-winning producer of literary programs. He has written for television, the stage, and authored 13 books. He conducts writing/publishing workshops at schools and conferences throughout the country. Kwame lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Tim Bowers has illustrated more than 25 children's books, garnering such awards as the Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best list. His work for Sleeping Bear includes First Dog and First Dog’s White House Christmas. Tim lives in Granville, Ohio.”
David J. Helfand’s A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age: Scientific Habits of Mind (Columbia University Press) “provides an inoculation against the misinformation epidemic by cultivating scientific habits of mind. . . [and] supplies an essential set of apps for the prefrontal cortex while making science both accessible and entertaining. It will dissolve your fear of numbers, demystify graphs, and elucidate the key concepts of probability, all while celebrating the precise use of language and logic.” “A Survival Guide for the Misinformation Age is an impassioned plea for science literacy. Given the state of the world today, in which scientifically underinformed voters elect scientifically illiterate politicians, David Helfand has written the right book at the right time with the right message. Read it now. The future of our civilization may depend on it,” advises Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History.
Virginia Heffernan’s Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art) (Simon & Schuster) “reveals the logic and aesthetics behind the Internet. Since its inception, the Internet has morphed from merely an extension of traditional media into its own full-fledged civilization. It is among mankind’s great masterpieces—a massive work of art. As an idea, it rivals monotheism. We all inhabit this fascinating place. But its deep logic, its cultural potential, and its societal impact often elude us. In this deep and thoughtful book, Virginia Heffernan (called one of the ‘best living writers of English prose’) presents an original and far-reaching analysis of what the Internet is and does. Life online, in the highly visual, social, portable, and global incarnation rewards certain virtues. The new medium favors speed, accuracy, wit, prolificacy, and versatility, and its form and functions are changing how we perceive, experience, and understand the world.” “In melding the personal with the increasingly universal, Heffernan delivers a highly informative analysis of what the Internet is—and can be. A thoroughly engrossing examination of the Internet’s past, present, and future.” Kirkus "Heffernan is a gleeful trickster, a semiotics fan with an unabashed sweet tooth for pop culture. The New York Times. Index.
The publisher’s description of John D'Agata’s The Making of the American Essay (A New History of the Essay) (Graywolf Press) reads, “For two decades, essayist John D'Agata has been exploring the contours of the essay through a series of innovative, informative, and expansive anthologies that have become foundational texts in the study of the genre. The breakthrough first volume, The Next American Essay, highlighted major work from 1974 to 2003, while the second, The Lost Origins of the Essay, showcased the essay's ancient and international forebears. Now, with The Making of the American Essay, D'Agata concludes his monumental tour of this inexhaustible form, with selections ranging from Anne Bradstreet's secular prayers to Washington Irving's satires, Emily Dickinson's love letters to Kenneth Goldsmith's catalogues, Gertrude Stein's portraits to James Baldwin's and Norman Mailer's meditations on boxing. Across the anthologies, D'Agata's introductions to each selection-intimate and brilliantly provocative throughout-serve as an extended treatise, collectively forming the backbone of the trilogy. He uncovers new stories in the American essay's past, and shows us that some of the most fiercely daring writers in the American literary canon have turned to the essay in order to produce our culture's most exhilarating art. The Making of the American Essay offers the essay at its most varied, unique, and imaginative best, proving that the impulse to make essays in America is as old and as original as the nation itself.” “D’Agata is America’s most intellectually eloquent reader of the essay. . . . With this third and final volume of his long labor of love he gives us a defining work of reference that will serve generations to come,” opines critic, journalist, essayist, and memoirist Vivian Gornick. “It’s clear that the past fifteen-or-so years saw a rethinking and a rebirth of the essay, and equally clear that John D’Agata’s work was essential in both. He pushed the form forward with one hand and extended our grasp of its roots with the other. He remains as exciting to read as to argue with, and his hunting in the worlds of lost non-fiction has shown me many new writers and texts. The Making of the American Essay completes a series on the subject and brings the achievement of all three books into focus. It is major,” enthuses John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead: Essays.
I much enjoyed Louisa Thomas’s Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams (Penguin Press), Mrs. Adams did indeed lead an extraordinary life, as well as one of much physical and emotional suffering. While certainly neither an abolitionist nor a feminist, she was intellectually fraught over slavery and she questioned the ways in which the worth of women was denied, ignored, and diminished by the patriarchal society of her time. The publisher accurately describes the biography as “An intimate portrait of Louisa Catherine Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams, who witnessed firsthand the greatest transformations of her time. They lived in Prussia, Massachusetts, Washington, Russia, and England, at royal courts, on farms, in cities, and in the White House. Louisa saw more of Europe and America than nearly any other woman of her time. But wherever she lived, she was always pressing her nose against the glass, not quite sure whether she was looking in or out. The other members of the Adams family could take their identity for granted—they were Adamses; they were Americans—but she had to invent her own. The story of Louisa Catherine Adams is one of a woman who forged a sense of self. As the country her husband led found its place in the world, she found a voice. That voice resonates still.” Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Witches, Cleopatra, and A Great Improvisation, enthuses, “The thrilling, improbable life of our only foreign-born First Lady, to whom Quincy, Massachusetts seemed more exotic than Tsar Alexander’s St. Petersburg. If, as Louisa Thomas makes splendidly clear, being born an Adams was difficult, marrying one was yet more so. Louisa Catherine Adams knew how to please her husband (study Cicero), as well as how to displease him (wear rouge); we come to admire her on both counts in this nuanced, beautifully crafted portrait.” Frontispiece photograph of Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, notes, index.
Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War (Oxford University Press), by David M. Lubin, is a “vivid, engaging account of the famous and forgotten artists and artworks that sought to make sense of America's first total war. Despite the prevailing view of World War I’s general lack of impact on American Art, David Lubin takes readers on a journey through the major historical events during and immediately after the war to discover the often missed vast and pervasive influence of the Great War on American visual culture[,] assess[ing] the war’s impact on two dozen painters, designers, photographers, and film makers from 1914 to 1933[,] creatively upend[ing] traditional understandings of the Great War’s effects on the visual arts in America.” “What Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory did for literature, David Lubin’s Grand Illusions does for the painting, photography, sculpture, and architecture inspired by the First World War. Astutely guiding his readers through the treacherous landscape where stubborn romantic myths befog the ghastly realities of modern warfare, Lubin powerfully demonstrates the Great War's lasting legacy in all the visual arts.” says David M. Kennedy, author of Over Here: The First World War and American Society, and David Reynolds, author of The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century, praises the book as “A fascinating, richly illustrated examination of how this supposedly ‘forgotten’ war figured in the American imagination.” Photographs, illustrations, notes, index.
Simon Schama’s The Face of Britain: A History of the Nation Through Its Portraits (Oxford University Press) is a fun book. Cheek by jowl (well, in different chapters) are “portraits” (paintings, drawings, photographs) of Henry VIII, Winston Churchill, and “Annie Leibovitz's photograph of a nude John Lennon kissing Yoko Ono, taken five hours before his murder.” “Here are expressions from across the centuries of normalcy and heroism, beauty and disfigurement, aristocracy and deprivation, the familiar and the obscure-the faces of courtesans, warriors, workers, activists, playwrights, the high and mighty as well as pub-crawlers. Linking them is Schama's vibrant exploration of how their connective power emerges from the dynamic between subject and artist, work and viewer, time and place. Schama's compelling analysis and impassioned evocation of these works create an unforgettable verbal mosaic that at once reveals and transforms the images he places before us. Lavishly illustrated and written with the storytelling brio that is Schama's trademark, The Face of Britain invites us to look at a nation's visual legacies and find its reflection.” List of Illustrations, bibliography, index.
Craig Pittman Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country (St. Martin's Press). “To outsiders, Florida seems baffling. It’s a state where the voters went for Barack Obama twice, yet elected a Tea Party candidate as governor. Florida is touted as a carefree paradise, yet it’s also known for its perils-alligators, sinkholes, pythons, hurricanes, and sharks, to name a few. It attracts 90 million visitors a year, some drawn by its impressive natural beauty, others bewitched by its manmade fantasies. Oh, Florida! explores those contradictions and shows how they fit together to make this the most interesting state. It is the first book to explore the reasons why Florida is so wild and weird-and why that’s okay. Florida couldn’t be Florida without that sense of the unpredictable, unexpected, and unusual lurking behind every palm tree. But there is far more to Florida than its sideshow freakiness. Oh, Florida! explains how Florida secretly, subtly influences all the other states in the Union, both for good and for ill. Photographs, bibliography, index.
I received Garry Trudeau’s Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump (Andrews McMeel Publishing) ten days before the 2016 election and, quoting from a then recent Darryl Pinckney essay, I plead, “Nate Silver, hold my hand.” (Well, notwithstanding Nate’s assurances, the worst happened.) Trudeau, characteristically, proves to have been uncannily prescient in foreseeing the candidacy of the demagogue and sociopath Trump, “tirelessly track[ing] and highlight[ing] the unsavory career of the most unqualified candidate to ever aspire to the White House. It’s all there—the hilarious narcissism, the schoolyard bullying, the loathsome misogyny, the breathtaking ignorance; and a good portion of the Doonesbury cast has been tangled up in it. Join Duke, Honey, Earl, J.J., Mike, Mark, Roland, Boopsie, B.D., Sal, Alice, Elmont, Sid, Zonker, Sam, Bernie, Rev. Sloan, and even the Red Rascal as they cross storylines with the big, orange airhorn who’s giving the GOP such fits. Garry Trudeau is [as Trump is quoted in an included newspaper clip] the ‘sleazeball’ and ‘third-rate talent’ who draws the ‘overrated’ comic strip Doonesbury, which ‘very few people read.’ He lives in New York City with his wife Jane Pauley, who ‘has far more talent than he has.’” As of this writing, I look forward to—after Hillary Clinton is elected, —many rereadings of Yuge!. (Additional update as of the posting of this roundup on January 2, 2017: I remain uncomprehending and devastated that this clown, ignoramus, and terrifyingly dangerous man could have been elected and will occupy the Oval Office come January 20, 2017.)
The Pinch: A Novel: A History (Graywolf Press), by Steve Stern, winner of the National Jewish Book Award and the author of several previous novels and story collections, is more than a novel, it is a history within a novel and a novel within a history. In the late NPR book critic Alan Cheuse’s words, its account of a “mythologized Memphis [is]weird, wacky.” “The Pinch—for many years in the early 20th century a predominantly Jewish section of Memphis—has found its Whitman and its Faulkner in Stern, who’s written a stylistically effusive, verbally extravagant novel. . . . Audacious, hilarious, unabashed fiction.” Kirkus Reviews.
Ian Frazier’s Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting Pieces (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) “is [by] one of the most gifted chroniclers of contemporary America. Hogs Wild assembles a decade’s worth of [Frazier’s] finest essays and reportage, and demonstrates the irrepressible passions and artful digressions that distinguish his enduring body of work. Part muckraker, part adventurer, and part raconteur, Frazier beholds, captures, and occasionally reimagines the spirit of the American experience. He travels down South to examine feral hogs, and learns that their presence in any county is a strong indicator that it votes Republican. He introduces us to a man who, when his house is hit by a supposed meteorite, hopes to ‘leverage’ the space object into opportunity for his family, and a New York City police detective who is fascinated with rap-music-related crimes. Alongside Frazier’s delight in the absurdities of contemporary life is his sense of social responsibility: there’s an echo of the great reform-minded writers in his pieces on a soup kitchen, opioid overdose deaths on Staten Island, and the rise in homelessness in New York City under Mayor Bloomberg. In each dizzying discovery, Hogs Wild unearths the joys of inquiry without agenda, curiosity without calculation. To read Frazier is to become a kind of social and political anthropologist--astute and deeply engaged.” This is truly a marvelous collection.
The Time Traveler's Handbook: 18 Experiences from the Eruption of Vesuvius to Woodstock (Harper Design), by James Wyllie, Johnny Acton, and David Goldblatt, “Travel[s] through time to witness some of the most extraordinary and colorful events in world history with this unusual and entertaining guide that includes fascinating cultural details from each period, including what and where to eat, what to wear, how to act like a local, and most importantly, how to stay alive. . . . Filled with engaging and colorful details, The Time Traveler's Handbook helps you make the most of your ‘travels,’ giving you background information, insight into local customs, and advice on all aspects of period life to make your adventures authentic and help you actually live them [and] gives you unprecedented access to a wide range of milestones, including Celebrations & Exhibitions; Moments That Made History; Cultural & Sporting Spectaculars; Epic Journeys and Voyages; and Extreme Events. Observe Mount Vesuvius erupt (and survive), see the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, boogie with the Beatles in Hamburg, accompany Marco Polo to Xanadu, attend the opening night of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, smell the cordite at the battle of Bull Run, and sit ringside at Foreman and Ali’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa. Illustrated with color and black-and-white paintings and photographs of famous figures and locations, as well as detailed maps and illustrations to aid in your journey through time, The Time Traveler’s Handbook is the ultimate guide to exploring history that unlocks the wonders of the past as never before.” Photographs, illustrations, “Past, Present, and Future Reading” (a bibliography).
The going definition of a novella is in terms of both length and form, to wit, a novella is shorter and contains a less complex plot than a novel. By these standards, I would place Eugen Ruge’s 107-page Cabo de Gata: A Novel (Graywolf Press) in the novella category. I much enjoyed it and agree that it “proposes the biggest questions and illustrates how achieving happiness sometimes means giving oneself up to the foreign and the unknown. . . . A witty, philosophical novel by the author of the internationally bestselling In Times of Fading Light. Sometimes a cat comes into your life when you least expect it. An unnamed writer finds himself in Cabo de Gata, a sleepy, worn-down Andalusian fishing village. He's left behind his life in Berlin, which it turns out wasn't much--an ex-girlfriend, a neighborhood that had become too trendy for his taste. Surrounded by a desolate landscape that is scoured by surprisingly cold winds (not at all what he expected of southern Spain), he faces his daily failures: to connect with the innkeeper or any of the townsfolk, who all seem to be hiding something; to learn Spanish; to keep warm; to write. At last he succeeds in making an unlikely connection with one of the village's many feral cats. Does the cat have a message for him? And will their tenuous relationship be enough to turn his life around?”
Just as Nabokov’s Lolita provided us a veritable landscape of America (in the 1950s) and Updike’s Rabbit tetralogy does the same (as it cruises over four decades, commencing in the 1960s), Rosa Liksom, the author of Compartment No. 6: A Novel (Graywolf Press), gives the reader, in stark terms, a city-by-city, hamlet-by-hamlet overview of the corruption and desolation of the USSR. “[Liksom] was born in a village of eight houses in Lapland, Finland, where her parents were reindeer breeders and farmers. She spent her youth traveling Europe, living as a squatter and in communes. She paints, makes films, and writes in Helsinki.” The story, which is translated by Lola Rogers) and in the original Finnish won the 2011 Finlandia Prize, takes place in the final years of the Soviet Union and appears to be drawn from the writer’s experiences, for it recount’s the protagonist’s (“the girl,”) journey, by train, from Moscow to Mongolia. “There is a hint of menace in the air,” the publisher says, and I shall not be a spoiler by revealing any more about this intriguing novel except to say that it is a gripping tale told in a manner that bespeaks high art.
In Freebird: A Novel (Graywolf Press), Jon Raymond, “screenwriter of the acclaimed films Meek’s Cutoff and Night Moves, combines . . . narrative threads into a hard-driving story of one family’s moral crisis [,delivering] a brilliant, searching novel about death and politics in America today, revealing how the fates of our families are irrevocably tied to the currents of history.” Jon Raymond is the author of two novels, Rain Dragon and The Half-Life, and the short-story collection Livability. His work has appeared in Tin House, The Village Voice, Bookforum, and other places. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
I much enjoyed Norwegian Carl Frode Tiller’s Encircling: A Novel (Graywolf Press), translated by Barbara J. Haveland, the opening novel to a trilogy of the same title, won the European Prize for Literature, the English PEN Award, and the Hunger Prize. Frode displays mastery at getting inside his characters’ heads in very disturbing ways. “[It] can hold his own alongside Norway’s other literary big hitters. I’m very much looking forward to the next installment,” says Ann Morgan, freelance writer and editor from London and author of World Between Two Covers.
Percival Everett’s So Much Blue: A NovelPercival Everett by Virgil Russell, Erasure, and I Am Not Sidney Poitier. He has received the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction.
In J. Robert Lennon’s unfolds, a spectral presence seems to be watching with cold and mysterious interest. Soon the house lies abandoned, and years later a new family moves in. . . . . Broken River is a cinematic, darkly comic, and sui generis psychological thriller.”
David Rivard’s Standoff: Poems (Graywolf Press) is “written from deep within the skin of our times. [The title poem] ‘Standoff’ asks an essential question: In a world of noise, of global anxiety and media distraction, how can we speak to each other with honesty? These poems scan the shifting horizons of our world, all the while swerving elastically through the multitude of selves that live inside our memories and longings--"all those me's that wish to be set free at dawn." The work of these poems is a counterweight to the work of the world. It wants to deepen the mystery we are to ourselves, stretching toward acceptance and tenderness in ways that are hard-won and true, even if fleeting.”
Tina Packer’s Women of Will: The Remarkable Evolution of Shakespeare's Female Characters (Vintage) “is a fierce and funny exploration of Shakespeare’s understanding of the feminine. Tina Packer, one of our foremost Shakespeare experts, shows that Shakespeare began, in his early comedies, by writing women as shrews to be tamed or as sweet little things with no independence of thought. The women of the history plays are much more interesting, beginning with Joan of Arc. Then, with the extraordinary Juliet, there is a dramatic shift: suddenly Shakespeare’s women have depth, motivation, and understanding of life more than equal to that of the men. As Shakespeare ceases to write women as predictable caricatures and starts writing them from the inside, his women become as dimensional, spirited, spiritual, active, and sexual as any of his male characters. Wondering if Shakespeare had fallen in love (Packer considers with whom, and what she may have been like), the author observes that from Juliet on, Shakespeare’s characters demonstrate that when women and men are equal in status and passion, they can—and do—change the world.” Sources, bibliography, index.
Albert Goldbarth’s The Adventures of Form and Content: Essays is “about the mysteries of dualities, the selves we all carry inside, the multiverses that we are. This collection takes its shape from the ACE Doubles format of the 1950s: turn this book one way, and read about the checkered history of those sci-fi and pulp fictions, or about the erotic poetry of Catullus and the gravelly songs of Springsteen, or about the high gods and the low-down blues, a city of the holy and of the sinful; turn this book the other way, and read about prehistoric cave artists and NASA astronauts, or about illness and health, or about the discovery of planets and the discovery of oneself inside an essay, or about soul ships and space ships, the dead and the living; or turn the book any way you want, and this book becomes an adventure of author and reader, form and content. Goldbarth’s essays have pioneered and inspired new forms of nonfiction writing for thirty years. Robert Atwan, the series editor for The Best American Essays, praises his work by stating, ‘These essays are a whole new breed . . . . Goldbarth has spliced strands of the old genre with a powerful new genre―and the results are miraculous.’ The Adventures of Form and Content is a new, ingenious work of hilarity and humanity that reminds us of the capabilities and impossibilities of art.” (Graywolf Press) Albert Goldbarth [is] “a dazzling virtuoso who can break your heart,” says Joyce Carol Oates.
Donning my classics hat (http://camws.org/News/newsletter/files/WRSAutobio.pdf), I requested review copies of the following books.
Christopher Logue War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), edited by Christopher Reid “For more than forty years, the English poet, wit, and troublemaker Christopher Logue (1926-2011) was at work on what came to be regarded as his masterpiece: an idiosyncratic contemporary version of Homer's Iliad. Beginning with the publication of his first volume in 1981 and celebrated as ‘the best translation of Homer since Pope’s” (The New York Review of Books), Logue’s project was distinct from conventional translation, for it set out to be a radical reimagining of Homer’s take on warfare, human folly, and the power of the gods, in a language and style of verse that were emphatically of Logue's era. While illness prevented him from bringing his version of the Iliad to completion, enough survives in notebooks and letters to allow his friend the poet Christopher Reid to compile a version of the unpublished final installment, “Big Men Falling a Long Way.” This has been added to the previous parts of the poem . . . to make one magisterial volume [and] comes as near as possible to representing the poet’s complete vision, an always surprising, witty, moving, and uncanny performance on the page that is “possessed of a very terrible beauty" Slate. Here Logue confirms what his admirers have long known: War Music “is likely to endure as one of the great long poems of the twentieth century,” The Times Literary Supplement.
Just as I observed above that Ted Gioia’s introductory book about jazz is an excellent guide for the beginner and a refresher course for those knowledgeable of the art form, so do I say the same about Richard Jenkyns Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond (Basic Books). It serves both purposes, for it offers the essential information for the novice and many insights that will be welcome to those familiar with the ancient western world and its literature. Having given up serving as a professor of classics more than four decades ago, I can now claim to be no more than a dilettante in that field of study, although I have kept up my Greek and Latin and more often than not have a volume of ancient history, a biography of one of its participants, or a critical study of a Greek or Latin author on my active reading stack. I have enjoyed and profited from Jenkyns’ book. “In this short book, written in artfully uncomplicated prose, Jenkyns not only informs his readers about all the major authors of Greek and Roman antiquity but invariably delivers fresh, arresting, and by no means uncontroversial opinions on most of them. His book will certainly instruct those in search of information about classical literature, but it will also give profit and pleasure to those who already know something about it. There is scarcely anything on which he does not offer an original aperçu, sometimes illuminating, sometimes simply provocative, but always worth reading. . . . Jenkyns’s view of ancient literature is Olympian. He sees it from a great height, with a sharp eye and broad vision, and what he sees is never clouded or obscure. His success comes from an unusual conjunction of distance with a deep knowledge and love of the literature about which he writes,” opines classicist G.W. Bowersock, in the New York Review of Books. Notes, index.
Augustan Poetry and the Irrational (Oxford University Press),Philip Hardie, editor, is a collection of essays by British, French, Italian, and German classical scholars. I especially welcome it because two of the poets concerned, Tibullus and Propertius, were areas of concentration for me during my professorial years (late 1950s –late ’60s) as professor of classics. The publisher’s description of the era and its poetry states well the fascination that Augustan poetry holds for this renegade classicist: “The establishment of the Augustan regime presents itself as the assertion of order and rationality in the political, ideological, and artistic spheres, after the disorder and madness of the civil wars of the late Republic. But the classical, Apollonian poetry of the Augustan period is fascinated by the irrational in both the public and private spheres. There is a vivid memory of the political and military furor that destroyed the Republic, and also an anxiety that furor may resurface, that the repressed may return. Epic and elegy are both obsessed with erotic madness: Dido experiences in her very public role the disabling effects of love that are both lamented and celebrated by the love elegists. Didactic (especially the Georgics) and the related Horatian exercises in satire and epistle, offer programmes for constructing rational order in the natural, political, and psychological worlds, but at best contain uneasily an ever-present threat of confusion and backsliding, and for the most part fall short of the austere standards of rational exposition set by Lucretius. Dionysus and the Dionysiac enjoy a prominence in Augustan poetry and art that goes well beyond the merely ornamental. The person of the emperor Augustus himself tests the limits of rational categorization. Augustan Poetry and the Irrational contains contributions by some of the leading experts of the Augustan period as well as a number of younger scholars. An introduction which surveys the field as a whole is followed by chapters that examine the manifestations of the irrational in a range of Augustan poets, including Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and the love elegists, and also explore elements of post-classical reception.” Bibliography, Index Locorum, index.
It was also gratifying to receive a review copy of Seth L. Schein’s Homeric Epic and its Reception: Interpretive Essays (Oxford University Press), for it contains essays on passages in the Iliad and Odyssey that I have read both in the Greek original and in several English translations and that I have puzzled over or merely enjoyed. In addition, there are several chapters of a more general nature, e.g., “Milman Parry the the Literary Interpretation of Homeric Poetry” and “An American Homer for the Twentieth Centuty.” Bibliography, Index of Passages, index.
Ian Worthington’s By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire (Ancient Warfare and Civilization series) (Oxford University Press) “offers an exhilarating military narrative of the reigns of these two larger-than-life figures in one volume. Ian Worthington gives full breadth to the careers of father and son, showing how Philip was the architect of the Macedonian empire, which reached its zenith under Alexander, only to disintegrate upon his death. By the Spear also explores the impact of Greek culture in the East, as Macedonian armies became avatars of social and cultural change in lands far removed from the traditional sphere of Greek influence. In addition, the book discusses the problems Alexander faced in dealing with a diverse subject population and the strategies he took to what might be called nation building, all of which shed light on contemporary events in culturally dissimilar regions of the world. The result is a gripping and unparalleled account of the role these kings played in creating a vast empire and the enduring legacy they left behind.” Photographs, illustrations, maps, bibliography, index.
Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece (Ancient Warfare and Civilization series) (Oxford University Press), by Robin Waterfield, “chronicles this momentous move by Rome into the Greek east. Until now, this period of history has been overshadowed by the threat of Carthage in the west, but events in the east were no less important in themselves, and Robin Waterfield's account reveals the peculiar nature of Rome's eastern policy. For over seventy years, the Romans avoided annexation so that they could commit their military and financial resources to the fight against Carthage and elsewhere. Though ultimately a failure, this policy of indirect rule, punctuated by periodic brutal military interventions and intense diplomacy, worked well for several decades, until the Senate finally settled on more direct forms of control. Waterfield's fast-paced narrative focuses mainly on military and diplomatic maneuvers, but throughout he interweaves other topics and themes, such as the influence of Greek culture on Rome, the Roman aristocratic ethos, and the clash between the two best fighting machines the ancient world ever produced: the Macedonian phalanx and Roman legion. The result is an absorbing account of a critical chapter in Rome's mastery of the Mediterranean.” Photographs, illustrations, maps, bibliography, index.
Patricia Bell-Scott’s The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice (Knopf) moved me deeply. As the publisher’s description says, it is “A groundbreaking book—two decades in the works—that tells the story of how a brilliant writer-turned-activist [and the] granddaughter of a mulatto slave . . . and [Eleanor Roosevelt,] the first lady of the United States, whose ancestry gave her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, forged an enduring friendship that changed each of their lives and helped to alter the course of race and racism in America.” “It’s safe to say that The Firebrand and the First Lady will deservedly capture several literary awards this year. . . . A definitive biography of Murray, a trailblazing legal scholar and a tremendous influence on Mrs. Roosevelt, who deepened her commitment to civil rights until her death in 1962.” Patrik Henry Bass, Essence. As an alumnus of Yale University (Ph.D., Classics, 1965), I am proud to note that Yale announced in the spring of 2016 that it was naming one of its two new residential colleges after Pauli Murray (http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/04/28/yale_names_new_residential_college_after_pauli_murray.html). The Nov/Dec 2016 Yale Alumni Magazine published my Letter to the Editor expressing my praise for the naming. Murray was the first African American to earn a Doctor of Juridical Science from Yale University Law School, in 1965. She also received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Yale in 1979. A summary of this extraordinary individual’s life and career is at http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Pauli_Murray.aspx. Photographs, notes, index.
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (Bloomsbury), by Carol Anderson, “is an extraordinarily timely and urgent call to confront the legacy of structural racism bequeathed by white anger and resentment, and to show its continuing threat to the promise of American democracy” and an Editor's Choice in the New York Times Book Review. “As Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August 2014, and media commentators across the ideological spectrum referred to the angry response of African Americans as ‘black rage,’ historian Carol Anderson wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post showing that this was, instead, ‘white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames,’ she writes, ‘everyone had ignored the kindling.’” Author Carol Anderson is professor of African American studies at Emory University. She is the author of many books and articles, including Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960 and Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights: 1944-1955. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
New York's Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway (Columbia University Press), by Edna Nahshon, is “Vividly illustrated and with essays from leading historians and critics, this book recounts the heyday of "Yiddish Broadway" and its vital contribution to American Jewish life and crossover to the broader American culture. These performances grappled with Jewish nationalism, labor relations, women's rights, religious observance, acculturation, and assimilation. They reflected a range of genres, from tear-jerkers to experimental theater. The artists who came of age in this world include Stella Adler, Eddie Cantor, Jerry Lewis, Sophie Tucker, Mel Brooks, and Joan Rivers. The story of New York's Yiddish theater is a tale of creativity and legacy and of immigrants who, in the process of becoming Americans, had an enormous impact on the country's cultural and artistic development.” “The many photos of famous actors and comics, old posters, packed theaters, and stage scenes balance out the richly sourced text, making this a visually lively, comprehensive, and accessible addition to any collection on theater or Jewish American history and heritage. Booklist. Photographs, illustrations, bibliography, notes, index.
“For decades, Cynthia Ozick has been one of our great critics, as Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) so clearly display. She offers models of critical analysis of writers from the mid-twentieth century to today, from Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, and Kafka, to William Gass and Martin Amis, all assembled in provocatively named groups: Fanatics, Monsters, Figures, and others. Uncompromising and brimming with insight, these essays are essential reading for anyone facing the future of literature in the digital age.” I highly recommend this collection of her essays, which span the past decade. I also enjoyed and learned much from her earlier What Henry James Knew & Other Essays on Writers. The lady is now eighty-eight and, as her latest book makes clear, is still going strong. She has won a dozen or so major awards for her critical writing and fiction.
A. S. Byatt’s Peacock & Vine: On William Morris and Mariano Fortuny (Knopf) “opens a window into the lives, designs, and passions of Mariano Fortuny and William Morris, two remarkable artists who themselves are passions of the writer A. S. Byatt. Born a generation apart in the mid-1800s, Fortuny and Morris were seeming opposites: Fortuny a Spanish aristocrat thrilled by the sun-baked cultures of Crete and Knossos; Morris a member of the British bourgeoisie, enthralled by Nordic myths. Through their revolutionary inventions and textiles, both men inspired a new variety of art that is as striking today as when it was first conceived. In this elegant meditation, Byatt traces their genius right to the source. . . . Generously illustrated with the artists’ beautiful designs—pomegranates and acanthus, peacock and vine—among other aspects of their worlds, this marvel-filled book brings the visions and ideas of Fortuny and Morris to vivid life.” ““A charming, generously illustrated, slim volume about two geniuses the likes of whom we have not seen in a while,” says Dominique Browning in he New York Times Book Review. Illustrations, “Further Reading.”
W. Royal Stokes, Ph.D (wroyalstokes.com) was the 2014 recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association’s Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism Award. Dr. Stokes has been an ardent reader since the mid-1930s and a close observer of the jazz, blues, and popular music worlds since the early 1940s. A few years later, he began immersing himself in fiction, biography, history, etc., in 1965 earning a Yale Ph.D. in Greek and Latin languages and literature and Ancient History and then serving as a professor of these subjects at, serially, four universities, one of which, Tufts, sent him to Naples, Italy, to teach in its study-abroad program for two years. He is author of The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990, Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson, Living the Jazz Life: Conversations with Forty Musicians about Their Careers in Jazz, and Growing Up With Jazz: Twenty-Four Musicians Talk About Their Lives and Careers. Volume 1 of his trilogy of novels Backwards Over, Rufus Has Been on the Lam, saw publication in June 2015. (Volumes 2 and 3 will see print early in 2017.) He is currently at work on a memoir and The Essential W. Royal Stokes Jazz, Blues & Beyond Reader. A founding member of the Jazz Journalists Association, Dr. Stokes pays tribute to the JJA in “The Jazz Journalists Association: A 25-Year Retrospective” (http://news.jazzjournalists.org/2013/06/the-jazz-journalists-association-a-25-year-retrospective/). His Amazon Author Page is at Amazon.com/W.-Royal-Stokes/e/B001HD17MY