In the end, even if it converts one or two of them to the cause of David Allan Coe and Bocephus, Ching’s account is for...

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WRONG’S WHAT I DO BEST

HARD COUNTRY MUSIC AND CONTEMPORARY CULTURE

A scholarly disquisition on an embattled musical genre.

Ching (English/Univ. of Memphis) is a true-blue fan of “hard country music,” which goes by other names—roots, Americana, alt-country, etc.—on the few radio playlists where it is welcome today. The province of influential artists such as Hank Williams, George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Waylon Jennings, Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, and other performers who “often portray themselves as poor souls condemned to endlessly state the obvious,” hard country has been driven from the airwaves by the frothy pop of Garth Brooks and other Perrier-swilling yuppies in boots and Stetsons. To illustrate the “almost existential” differences between hard and pop country, Ching offers a nicely wry deconstruction of Brooks’s 1990 anthem “The Dance” and Jones’s 1980 lament “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the second of which she characterizes, and not unjustly, as a “wallow in male misery” while recognizing its superiority on every score. The more prevalent the Brooksian, hook-laden, lyrically unchallenging brand of country becomes, Ching notes—and she is far from the first writer to do so—the farther hard country drifts from the mainstream, so much so that it now stands as an angry, countercultural critique of prevailing values. The author’s plainspoken appreciation for the merits of the hard-country genre is, unfortunately, surrounded by thickets of postmodern jargon that few other than fellow literary critics will want to enter, as when she observes that “abjection is constantly portrayed by an absurdly unregenerate white man who jokes and suffers while women and conventionally successful men brandish the normative values that underscore abjection.”

In the end, even if it converts one or two of them to the cause of David Allan Coe and Bocephus, Ching’s account is for professors—and not for civilian fans of the hard-drinking, lost-highway sound.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-19-510835-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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