Vital and unsparing. Murray taps the wellspring of greatness and posits it as a challenge for artists-in-the-making.

FROM THE BRIARPATCH FILE

ON CONTEXT, PROCEDURE, AND AMERICAN IDENTITY

Smooth but scrappy essays on the creation of art, universally and with particular attention paid to the circumstances of the African-American experience.

Octogenarian cultural critic Murray (The Seven League Boots, 1996, etc.) is both a keen participant and observer as he deals out his thoughts on the blues, Robert Penn Warren's Who Speaks for the Negro?, New York in the 1920s, the glory of Duke Ellington, among other topics. A rapier intellect keeps these essays quick and nimble, but they leave plenty to chew on in their wake. Murray is especially fascinated by “the matter of processing or stylizing idiomatic folk and pop particulars, which is to say extending, elaborating, and refining folk and pop material up to the level of fine art.” Duke Ellington is one example; he transformed indigenous American raw material into universal art by seizing the “indispensable dynamics of the vernacular imperative.” In parallel, the author notes that writers such as Faulkner (and one might add Murray himself) conjure a sense of place via idiomatic particulars that can be turned as metaphors. To survive, let alone flourish, Murray argues, one has to think fast, be “ready to swing as if he were a competent jazz musician in the ever unpredictable circumstances of a jam session and also always be ready to riff or improvise on the break.” This seems a crucial statement of reality not just for African-Americans, but by extension for anyone living at the turn of the millennium. Especially insightful is a previously published interview (by Sanford Pinsker) in which Murray talks about hearing the jazz in his favorite writers (Kafka, Mann, Auden): “When a sentence sounds right to me, it's probably some variation of the Kansas City 4/4.”

Vital and unsparing. Murray taps the wellspring of greatness and posits it as a challenge for artists-in-the-making.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-42142-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2001

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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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