VISIONS OF JAZZ

THE FIRST CENTURY

Giddins, a longtime Village Voice contributor and one of our most skillful jazz critics (Faces in the Crowd, 1992, etc.), offers a monumental work of ambition, an attempt to encapsulate a hundred years of jazz history in 79 essays on the music’s great creators. Actually, more properly, this is about the progenitors of jazz, benchmark figures and some idiosyncratic characters who helped make it a unique art form. Readers will look in vain for some key musicians—no Sidney Bechet, Ben Webster, Woody Herman, Albert Ayler here. What they will find, however, should more than amply reward: a canny celebration of jazz as a hotbed of intransigent individuality, of creation-on-the-fly. On the threshold of its second century, jazz faces a crisis of historical interpretation. As Giddins writes, “Jazz has been taken up by the academy at a time when only the academy can keep track of it.” Giddins has made no attempt to smooth out the complicated wrinkles of the schools, trends, and cycles of which jazz history seems to be made. But, while he brings an unerring critical intelligence to his analyses of the music and a formidable grasp of music theory and practice, his writing has grown so compressed and aphoristic through the years that it now has the burnished weightiness of, say, film critic Manny Farber’s work. Giddins has become a master of the lightning insight, the unexpected connection (his use of literary analogies is particularly apt). Visions raises some quibbles., and it is not a book to be read straight through, not surprising, given its length and intensity. Occasionally Giddins assumes too much knowledge of his readers. And a discography would help a lot. But this is an important book, one that any serious student of jazz will want to own. Deserves a place on the jazz bookshelf alongside the best of Martin Williams and Francis Davis, and you can’t get much better than that. (11 illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-19-507675-3

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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