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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. 8, 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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