So dry at times that the reader may worry whether rock is truly dead. But an informative depiction of the early sound and...

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ALL SHOOK UP

HOW ROCK ’N’ ROLL CHANGED AMERICA

A slender academic treatment of rock music as a cultural, political, and historical force.

Rock ’n’ roll has a long pedigree, and Altschuler (American Studies/Cornell Univ.) follows its history only partway to its birth in the union of black country blues and hillbilly balladry. Instead, his story begins in the late 1940s and early ’50s, when a few daring “race” artists managed to bring their sound to white teenagers in an era when “the orchestras of Mantovani, Hugo Winterhalter, Percy Faith, and George Cates created mood music for middle-of-the-road mid-lifers, who hummed and sang along in elevators and dental offices.” Greil Marcus, Peter Guralnick, and other rock historians have done better than Altschuler in capturing the mood of the revolution that followed, but Altschuler shines when he sets the history of rock in the context of other social trends, particularly the growing civil-rights movement and American advertising’s discovery of adolescents as a market segment. All were calculated to bring down the harrumphing of older social critics, who were legion: the authors of U.S.A. Confidential, who worried that disk jockeys and their audiences were “hopheads. . . . Many others are Reds, left-wingers, or hecklers of social convention”; the poet Langston Hughes, who grumped that rock ’n’ roll “makes a music so basic it’s like the meat cleaver the butcher uses”; even the late-in-the-day editorialists at the New York Times, who harped at the “nightmare of mud and stagnation” that supposedly was Woodstock. Rock ’n’ rollers weren’t the only ones to endure controversy, Altschuler adds, noting that the NAACP turned on Nat King Cole for his political indifference (Cole later became a committed civil-rights activist), and even safe-as-milk Pat Boone was once suspected of harboring hophead thoughts. Rock ’n’ roll carried the day against all its critics, though, to become whatever it is now, capable of exciting puritan and prurient emotions alike.

So dry at times that the reader may worry whether rock is truly dead. But an informative depiction of the early sound and fury all the same.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-19-513943-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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