Despite the title adapted from Samuel Johnson and the occasional reference to Aristotle or Kierkegaard, Robertson does not...



A Canadian novelist illuminates the lives and careers of musicians he loves in a dozen critical essays.

Though Robertson (I Was There the Night He Died, 2014, etc.) may not be as well-known to American music fans as most of the cult favorites he celebrates here, he brings a good ear and plenty of critical insight to essays aimed at helping readers discover new favorites or hear more familiar music from a fresh perspective. The book features an eclectic selection of artists, from the much-beloved (Little Richard, the Ramones) to the legendary and seminal (Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Gram Parsons) to the truly obscure (fellow Canadian Willie P. Bennett). The author writes that the book proceeds from his desire “to drop the fictional veil and deeply espouse and explore, at length, the lives of some musicians who have so deeply enriched my own life.” Most of these musicians were personally troubled and plagued by bad professional luck, even those who were initially part of successful bands—e.g., the Byrds’ Gene Clark, the Faces’ Ronnie Lane, and Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson. As with similar collections by Peter Guralnick, Nick Tosches, and others, the aim here is to elevate the profiles of musicians that have moved the author most. Most of them are now dead, many way too young. One pitfall of Robertson’s enthusiasm is his tendency to overstate the case, claiming that the best songs of Willie T. Bennett were “as good as any of the best stuff that John Prine or Guy Clark or even Townes Van Zandt were writing back then.” In general, though, the author’s aim is true and his devotion, sincere.

Despite the title adapted from Samuel Johnson and the occasional reference to Aristotle or Kierkegaard, Robertson does not strain to justify the music as poetry in this solid collection of essays.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77196-072-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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