A thoughtful, artfully written exploration not just about how music works, but how it makes us feel.

DERVISH AT THE CROSSROADS

A SOUNDQUEST THROUGH THE FIRST TWO DECADES OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM

A Montreal-based poet digs into our fascination with music and its relation to our search for meaning.

Outside of her poetic output, Waterman has collected a diverse collection of essays about creativity on her blog, The Mindful Bard. Many of these thought exercises and interviews concern music, but in this book, she writes, “they’re better and make more sense.” The most primal narrative thread is the idea of the “soundquest,” which Waterman defines as “a kind of hero’s journey” with more than a little bit of obsession involved. “A soundquest,” she writes, “begins when you hear something mysteriously thrilling, something that drives you to keep tunneling into the genre until you find the quintessence—the performance or the recording representing the culmination of listening pleasure for that genre.” Refreshingly, the author doesn’t limit her illuminating discussions to just Western music, though she does look at Bob Dylan’s influence and the cultural touchstone of Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie.” Physically, intellectually, and spiritually, Waterman travels much further. She analyzes the work of musicians from Brazil, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, among many other places, showing what drives these artists to create remarkable music. Waterman also shares the interesting, little-known fact that the mythology of the so-called “dark man at the crossroads” (in America, think Robert Johnson and the devil) reverberates across many cultures: “The crossroads being such a potent symbol of the intersection of the sacred with the profane, the soul standing at that intersection now complete can enter a state of mystical turning that, incorporating all, transcends all.” There’s a patina of New Age–y spirituality to the writing, but Waterman’s insights into the nature of jazz, blues, and other genres, as well as her personal discoveries, are well worth exploring.

A thoughtful, artfully written exploration not just about how music works, but how it makes us feel.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77183-500-8

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A slender, highly satisfying collection.

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LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I MEAN

A dozen pieces of nonfiction from the acclaimed novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter.

In an appreciative introduction, New Yorker theater critic Hilton Als praises Didion as “a carver of words in the granite of the specific.” Stylistic precision (“Grammar is a piano I play by ear,” she writes) and the “energy and shimmer” of her prose are fully evident in this volume of previously uncollected pieces, written from 1968 to 2000. Although Didion portrays herself as a diffident, unconfident writer as a college student, she learned “a kind of ease with words” when working at Vogue, where she was assigned to write punchy, concise copy. The experience, she recalls, was “not unlike training with the Rockettes.” Several pieces were originally published in magazines, and two were introductions: one, to a volume of photography by Robert Mapplethorpe; another, to a memoir by director—and Didion’s friend—Tony Richardson. All reveal the author’s shrewd, acerbic critical eye. In “Getting Serenity,” she reports on a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous, where, she notes sardonically, one woman “adapted her mode of public address from analgesic commercials.” William Randolph Hearst’s “phantasmagoric barony,” San Simeon, “seemed to confirm the boundless promise of the place we lived,” but, she decided, was best admired from afar, like a fairy-tale castle, “floating fantastically.” Didion’s rejection from Stanford elicited an essay about college as consumption, and her skewering of consumption and artifice recur as themes—for example, in her observation of the ways women stage themselves for portrait photographs. Several particularly revealing essays focus on writing: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,” she famously admitted, a statement often misattributed to others. Writing, for her, is “the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act.” As these pieces show, it’s also an accomplished act of seduction.

A slender, highly satisfying collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31848-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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