ROCKING MY LIFE AWAY

WRITING ABOUT MUSIC AND OTHERS MATTERS

Intelligent, critically generous, slightly boring essays, reviews, and profiles on pop music and cultural topics by longtime Rolling Stone contributor DeCurtis. DeCurtis warns us in a preface not to expect flashy prose or gonzo authorial participation in the subjects he covers, and he’s unfailingly respectful of his subjects, so it’s logical that the most engaging pieces here are the interviews with quick-witted, well- spoken musicians like U2 and Peter Buck of R.E.M. The unfortunate corollary is that DeCurtis takes all too seriously aesthetic irrelevancies like John Cougar Mellencamp. Magazine profiles (of the Rolling Stones, Sting, 10,000 Maniacs, and Leonard Cohen, among others) and liner notes (for Eric Clapton and Phil Spector CD boxed sets) often manage to boil down genius and eccentricity into qualities resembling mere skill and pluck; while useful as a corrective to rock-journalism hyperbole, the author’s mild response also makes these essays more or less forgettable. An obituary feature on the bluegrass legend Bill Monroe is unexpectedly sweet, a discussion of the furor over Ice-T’s —Cop Killer— is concise and thoughtful, and pieces on the novelist T. Coraghessan Boyle and the historians Neil Sheehan and Taylor Branch show a welcome avidity for advancing the cause of serious writing. But DeCurtis is best as a reviewer: The assortment of short record reviews and appreciations included here, while seldom advancing any unexpected opinions, show off his careful use of language without falling back on obscure hipster references or supercilious critical jargon. For instance, DeCurtis says Johnny Cash —has made a rumbling baritone voice with nonexistent range and a limited guitar technique expressive of a dignified worldview—; certain songs on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks ’suggest the possibility not merely of regret but of reconciliation and forgiveness based on the acceptance of loss.— In the end, though, while DeCurtis’s writing is efficient, it’s also generally too bloodless and ephemeral to reward the reader’s concentration.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8223-2184-X

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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