Country music is America’s music—which is to say, music from every culture and ethnicity. An essential guide.

COUNTRY MUSIC

AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY

Lucid, jam-packed, richly illustrated companion to the Ken Burns documentary series.

Was Earl Scruggs the Eddie Van Halen of his day? Quoting John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Duncan (Seed of the Future: Yosemite and the Evolution of the National Park Idea, 2013, etc.) makes the connection between the banjo master and the guitar shredder: “It was so fast. It was what excited people.” In the same way, Hank Williams was a punk rocker in his time, while Willie Nelson—well, Willie is unmistakably himself. As Rhiannon Giddens, of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has lately been demonstrating, country music is the music of rural blacks, whites, and Native people, a style, writes the author, that “was not invented; it emerged.” Rising from the bottom up and drawing, like the blues, on black gospel, country music was popularized by the new medium of radio, becoming a staple through “hillbilly” variety shows throughout the South. As a mix of ethnic forms, it ironically slipped through Henry Ford’s racist denunciation of jazz, gaining in popularity at the same time. Some country stars came to prominence accidentally: Roy Acuff might have been a baseball star had it not been for a case of sunstroke, and had he not been abused as a child, Hank Snow might not have run away from home. And then there are the working-class strivers: the ill-fated Williams, Wanda Jackson, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline. Duncan has broad tastes and an appreciation for the many strains that feed into the musical form, so that Dwight Yoakam, the Judds, Gram Parsons, and Guy Clark get as much play as Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, and George Jones. He also tracks the rising and waning commercial fortunes of country, which found plenty of room for the likes of Garth Brooks and new pop-y stars while freezing out old-timers like Nelson and Cash.

Country music is America’s music—which is to say, music from every culture and ethnicity. An essential guide.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-52054-2

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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