A sui generis and essential work on Black music culture destined to launch future investigations.

LINER NOTES FOR THE REVOLUTION

THE INTELLECTUAL LIFE OF BLACK FEMINIST SOUND

A spirited study of how Black women musicians and writers have informed each other despite gatekeepers’ neglect and dismissals.

Brooks, a professor of African American Studies at Yale, ranges from early blues icons like Bessie Smith, who created “jams that revel in the complexities—the affective ambiguities—of a Black woman’s inner lifeworld,” through contemporary phenoms like Janelle Monáe and Beyoncé. But it’s not all about the musicians. Women writers on Black music—Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, blues and jazz historian Rosetta Reitz—are crucial to Brooks, but this book is not strictly about music writing, either. By synthesizing both groups, the author develops an engrossing and provocative secret history of Black artists developing their own modes of history and celebration, exploring “the myriad ways that Black women have labored in and through sonic culture.” Hurston, an anthropologist before she was a celebrated novelist, made the case for blues music as central to American life; Hansberry’s defense of her own work and Black culture in general established a model for future writers; blues duo Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas opened up questions of Black (and perhaps queer) defiance of expectations to this day and how history is often warped by self-declared White keepers of blues history. The supporters for Brooks' thesis aren’t exclusively Black; she writes rhapsodically about music critics Ellen Willis, Greil Marcus, and Reitz, who reissued the work of Black blueswomen. However, the author emphasizes a culture in which “Black women are rarely in control of their own archives, rarely seen as skilled critics or archivists, all too rarely beheld as makers of rare sounds deemed deserving of excavation and long study.” Brooks writes with a scholar’s comprehensiveness, only occasionally overly fussy and digressive; her record-geek’s enthusiasm is explicit, and her book is a powerful corrective.

A sui generis and essential work on Black music culture destined to launch future investigations.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-05281-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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