A cracking good read, something that all too few essay anthologies manage to be.

BEST AFRICAN AMERICAN ESSAYS: 2009

Inaugural edition of a new series proves that there’s always room for another delivery method for quality short nonfiction.

Series editor Early (English, African and African-American Studies/Washington Univ.; This Is Where I Came In: Black America in the 1960s, 2003, etc.) and guest editor Dickerson (The End of Blackness, 2004, etc.) have gathered a vibrant mix of voices that belies the volume’s anodyne label. Early states up front his ecumenical goal: collecting the best essays authored by African-Americans. Even at that, he leaves the door open for others to write on racial issues; many will be surprised to see Andrew Sullivan’s chest-swelling ode to Barack Obama concluding the volume. Whatever the criteria involved, the book is a solid piece of work gathered from a wide range of publications (the New Yorker, Vibe, the St. Petersburg Times, etc.), loosely collected into subject buckets like “Activism/Political Thought” and “Internationally Black.” Early’s contribution, “Dancing in the Dark,” is a smart take on race and the South in film that recasts To Kill a Mockingbird as possibly more insidious than even Birth of a Nation. Emily Raboteau’s “Searching for Zion,” a labyrinthine account of her odyssey to reconcile her blackness with the spiritual quest for Jerusalem, is a masterpiece, as is Bill Maxwell’s sad three-parter about his disillusioning stint as a professor at a historically black college. Between these long-form classics crowd a host of shorter, divergent viewpoints. The effect is something like a loud family dinner with plenty of opinionated relatives who don’t always get along. Right-wing scold John McWhorter pops by to complain about the lack of American identity in modern youth, and Chloé Hilliard talks brashly about young black lesbians in Brooklyn acting just as gangsta as the boys. Meanwhile, off to the sides where it’s quieter, Obama writes of reincorporating faith into the progressive dialogue, and Malcolm Gladwell offers fresh insights into what I.Q. testing actually measures. There are a few weak selections (Michael Eric Dyson, we’re looking in your direction); fortunately, they are on the shorter side.

A cracking good read, something that all too few essay anthologies manage to be.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-553-80691-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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