FACES IN THE CROWD

PLAYERS AND WRITERS

Village Voice critic Giddins (Rhythm-a-ning, 1985, etc.) shows his versatility in this large, varied collection of reviews and essays—but the jazz pieces remain far more impressive than the author's writing on literature and show-biz. Although Giddins can get a bit gushy about his enthusiasm for the vocal and instrumental jazz greats (e.g., a self-indulgent tribute to Sarah Vaughan), he's usually persuasive in his mix of extensive knowledge and eloquent appreciation. He uses lesser-known recordings to fashion a balanced assessment of Ella Fitzgerald's uneven yet awesome career; he makes a convincing case for the undervalued Kay Starr (whose ``serpentine portamentos...resemble tailgate glides''). As for Louis Armstrong, Giddins stresses a ``renegade'' quality that was able to transmute racist material. And, combining live-concert reviews with surveys of recorded work (plus a few interviews), he does justice to the distinctive contributions of harmonica-virtuoso Larry Adler, the erratic Miles Davis, sax-man Sonny Rollins (``the most commanding musician alive''), and Dizzy Gillespie—whose Afro-Cuban innovations are highlighted in a close analysis of the landmark composition, ``Manteca.'' Giddins's book reviews—on Vonnegut, Roth, Welty, James M. Cain (``no one squats more imposingly'' in the trashy dominion of ``foul dreams'') and others—are solid but mostly unremarkable. Overviews of the careers of Jack Benny and Irving Berlin are surprisingly bland; Giddins does better with Hoagy Carmichael and Myrna Loy. Least effective of all is an effusive defense of Clint Eastwood's Bird film-bio of Charlie Parker. Not Giddins at his consistent, authoritative best, then, but sturdy, accessible work from a valuable critic.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-19-505488-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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INSIDE THE DREAM PALACE

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF NEW YORK'S LEGENDARY CHELSEA HOTEL

A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.

A revealing biography of the fabled Manhattan hotel, in which generations of artists and writers found a haven.

Turn-of-the century New York did not lack either hotels or apartment buildings, writes Tippins (February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America, 2005). But the Chelsea Hotel, from its very inception, was different. Architect Philip Hubert intended the elegantly designed Chelsea Association Building to reflect the utopian ideals of Charles Fourier, offering every amenity conducive to cooperative living: public spaces and gardens, a dining room, artists’ studios, and 80 apartments suitable for an economically diverse population of single workers, young couples, small families and wealthy residents who otherwise might choose to live in a private brownstone. Hubert especially wanted to attract creative types and made sure the building’s walls were extra thick so that each apartment was quiet enough for concentration. William Dean Howells, Edgar Lee Masters and artist John Sloan were early residents. Their friends (Mark Twain, for one) greeted one another in eight-foot-wide hallways intended for conversations. In its early years, the Chelsea quickly became legendary. By the 1930s, though, financial straits resulted in a “down-at-heel, bohemian atmosphere.” Later, with hard-drinking residents like Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan, the ambience could be raucous. Arthur Miller scorned his free-wheeling, drug-taking, boozy neighbors, admitting, though, that the “great advantage” to living there “was that no one gave a damn what anyone else chose to do sexually.” No one passed judgment on creativity, either. But the art was not what made the Chelsea famous; its residents did. Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Robert Mapplethorpe, Phil Ochs and Sid Vicious are only a few of the figures populating this entertaining book.

A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-618-72634-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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