Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Books

Will Hermes and more...

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA


cover art

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever

Will Hermes

(Faber and Faber; US: Nov 2011)

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever
Will Hermes


Will Hermes captures the peak years of New York music in this imaginative, poetic, and frequently humorous volume. The chronology is there but Hermes’ understanding of events and time is as fluid as the best jazz solos and, indeed, rock ‘n’ roll morality. Following the early years of NYC punk, Latin music, and even hip-hop, he demonstrates the lasting impact the Big Apple had on popular music throughout the rest of the ‘70s and indeed up until today. Elements of history and autobiography abound and Hermes balances both in such a way that the reader never feels that either are mutually exclusive concerns. As important a volume for music lovers as Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life. Hermes sets the bar high for future writers and has given readers a thoroughly remarkable gift. Jedd Beaudoin


 

cover art

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Manning Marable

(Viking; US: Apr 2011)

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
Manning Marable


Released a week after Marable’s untimely death, Malcolm X analyzes not only the historical (in)accuracies surrounding Malcolm X’s life and death, but the actual creation and sustenance of his memory and legacy. Marable weaves an engrossing historicized account of what he posits is the various performances of Malcolm X’s identity. From the nonchalance of a young Malcolm Little to the hustling spirit of Malcolm’s urban ego “Detroit Red”, to the broken and imprisoned angry black man “Satan” and finally the shining prince of the Nation of Islam El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X painstakingly recounts and builds upon Malcolm’s complex changes.  Each chapter walks the reader through a milestone in his life. The daunting challenge of “academizing” Malcolm while situating him into (counter)public popular discourse is met with a meticulous balance of academic and narrative prose, much of which is taken from interviews with Malcolm himself. This is an excellent testament to Manning’s historical prowess, and attempts to shed light on one of America’s most transfixing leaders. It challenges the readers’ willingness to look at the complexities of a legend that started off as a man. A nearly two and a half decade research process,Malcolm X is Marable’s magnum opus. R. N. Bradley


 

cover art

Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries

Jon Kristiansen

(Bazillion Points; US: Jul 2011)

Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries
Jon Kristiansen


Metalion is the best book about heavy metal ever released. A stunningly comprehensive historical and cultural record, Metalion is an anthology of issues 1 to XX of Slayer Mag—a self-produced zine started by Jon Kristiansen in Norway, in 1985. At over 700 pages in length, and documenting 25 years of chaos and controversy from within the extreme metal realm, the book presents an exhaustive array of interviews, reviews and commentary from key personalities and bands. With a mix of brutal honesty, and often-trenchant humor, Kristiansen chronicles the evolution (and devolution) of metal’s various sub-genres whilst recounting his own personal journey, from awed fan to trusted insider and beyond. Beautifully presented by publisher Bazillion Points, the book is crammed with evocative photography and illustrations from a quarter century of underground metal—and due credit must be given to editor Tara G. Warrior for bringing it all together. Metalion is a captivating and vital account of a genre of music so often woefully misrepresented, and its coverage of so many underground legends makes it not only essential reading for metal fans, but for anyone who’s ever been curious about the rationale behind all that glorious noise. Craig Hayes


 

cover art

Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice

Tad Hershorn

(University of California Press; US: Oct 2011)

Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice
Tad Hershorn


To write an almost flawless and objective biography of a man who changed the world of music, industry practices, and racial conditions in the US seems insurmountable. Hershorn writes with passion and an eye for reconstructing history with rich descriptions, narration, and humor. He imbues his writing with equal parts admiration and critical analysis. Specifically, Hershorn demonstrates a special talent for vividly building social spaces and the atmosphere of performances, thereby immersing the reader through the hair-raising but melodic musical world of the mid-20th century. Hershorn, an archivist, makes use of countless records, linear notes, press releases, newspaper clippings, and interviews to reconstruct and animate Granz’s life. Arguably, one of the best biographies of the year, Hershorn approaches his subject with a critical eye, allowing readers to delve deeper into the early jazz industry and fully live the challenges and successes of the Granz empire. Hershorn’s Norman Granz delivers an engaging and multisided retrospective on the culture altering jazz impresario. Elizabeth Woronzoff


 

cover art

The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature

Ben Segal, Erinrose Mager (Editors)

(Cow Heavy; US: Mar 2011)

The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature
Ben Segal, Erinrose Mager (Editors)


Stephen King once quoted an unnamed “fairly cynical writer acquaintance” who had a strict rule when it came to writing blurbs: “Never blurb a book you’ve read and never read a book you’ve blurbed.” Cynicism aside, this notion highlights the interchangeable aspect of most book blurbs. There are the clichés (“unputdownable”) but it’s more fun to look for over-the-top praise and imagine the blurber never read the book in question. This book offers a selection of blurbs for books that could line a shelf or two in Lucien’s or Borges’s libraries. It’s publisher specializes in “limited-edition, perfect-bound minibooks” with limited print runs, and they describe this wonderful collection as “a catalog of textual desire, of wished-for and ideal books as described by a diverse collection of writers, critics, and text-makers. The maligned blurb form herein becomes, time and again, the entryway into unreadable books and the anticipation that comes before opening them.” Over 60 writers contribute blurbs, and the collection begins immediately, without an introduction or table of contents. The first entry, “All these violent children”, by J.A. Tyler could also apply to the entire The Official Catalog: “The way this book manipulates the world, tears it up into tiny pieces and then re-structures it, recreates it, makes of it a new state of being, this is something to behold.” Oliver Ho


 

cover art

The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes

Greil Marcus

(Picador; US: Apr 2011)

The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes
Greil Marcus


In 1967, America seemed done, finished. The assassination of a young president in 1963 had closed the New Frontier and unleashed ill-spirits into the land. In 1968, Senator Kennedy would die in a kitchen, haunted by his brother’s restless young ghost. Dr. Martin Luther King died in Memphis, the city of mystery trains and records that shone like the Sun. The city at the tip of the Delta where so much of America had been born over the last few decades suddenly became a city of the dead, a place where someone shot a king just to watch him die. Cities would burn. College campus would explode. America’s unsteady leaders would expand the war in the Southeast Asia. Then lie about it and suppress civil liberties to hide the lies. Bob Dylan had warned that a hard rain was a-gonna fall and nobody listened, even the folkies and the lefties who thought they had been the first to listen and the only ones to understand. Yet Dylan and his compatriots found the hidden republic, the place where playing a blues, a railroad song and murder ballads provides access to the old, weird America. Readers will find this to be among Marcus’s more accessible works; it’s an egaging exploration of the B-side of the bootlegged version of American history that maybe tells the real story that never made it into the textbooks. W. Scott Poole


 

cover art

The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution

Francis Fukayama

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux; US: Apr 2011)

The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
Francis Fukayama


Francis Fukayama has long been pegged, somewhat unfairly, as a darling of the right wing. The political scientist is most famous for his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, which argued that liberal democracy was the natural endpoint to political history. In the post-Cold War era, the argument was quickly picked up by neoconservatives eager to spread democracy across the globe, whether the globe was ready for it or not. But Fukayama’s beliefs have always been more nuanced than an easy “liberal” or “conservative” summary. Since The End of History, he has had a falling out with neoconservatives over their handling of the Iraq War, to the point that he endorsed Obama in the 2008 election. And his new book, The Origins of Political Order, is delightfully bipartisan, in that there are plenty of arguments sure to irritate people on both sides of the political aisle. It aims to analyze the development of human governance from our hunter-gatherer days up until the end of the French Revolution. Such a long-term view inevitably means that the book is not as detailed as some specialists might like, but Fukayama does an excellent job making sharp, succinct arguments for each period in political history while still keeping the pace of the text relatively brisk. It’s a thought-provoking look at the political history of past civilizations, and it’s sure to offer plenty of fodder for conversations about the present. Christopher Holden


 

cover art

The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth

Matthew Algeo

(Chicago Review Press; US: May 2011)

The President Is a Sick Man
Matthew Algeo


In this day and age, where politicians are expected to have a presence on YouTube and Twitter as well as Capitol Hill, we’ve become accustomed to being over-saturated with meaningless news about our leaders. Nothing is forgotten in the digital age, and so we have grainy videos and out-of-context statements from decades prior being used during campaigns as ammunition against the other side. It’s enough to make previous eras, eras when the public didn’t know every last detail about their leaders, somewhat quaint. Algeo writes with light-hearted, engaging prose, and The President is a Sick Man reads more like an unlikely heist novel than a dry presidential history. The characters are all firmly sketched out, and Algeo provides a brief but effective view of Grover Cleveland himself—the hard-partying New York politician who became an unlikely president twice in two non-consecutive terms. Algeo doesn’t shy away from some of Cleveland’s less flattering moments, but also does a good job addressing such scandals like his out-of-wedlock daughter and his bride, who was half his age. While he leaves more detailed character analyses to other historians, the material Algeo uses here is more than enough to set the stage for the main event. The description of the secret surgery is filled with all sorts of incredible details that are so unlikely that they just have to be true.  Algeo paints the denizens of the era as both sweetly quaint and hopelessly naive; it was a time, after all, when journalists mostly believed whatever story the president told them. Christopher Holden


 

cover art

Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life

Kenneth Gross

(The University of Chicago Press; US: Oct 2011)

Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life
Kenneth Gross


This unusual little book explores the idea of puppetry, beginning with a visit to a master puppet maker in a small studio in Rome, and ranging far and wide to include Balinese shadow puppets, Punch and Judy shows, literary puppets in the works of writers like Kafka, Dickens, Rilke and Philip Roth, and puppets as works of art in themselves, exemplified in classic pieces from Paul Klee and Joseph Cornell. Over 11 short chapters, less than 200 pages, author Kenneth Gross uses these various approaches to the idea of puppetry to conduct a series of poetic meditations on “the closest thing we have in the ordinary human world to the transmigration of the soul from one body to another, or from one creature to another.” Gross seems to summarize all the notions and uses of puppetry that he has shown us and, like a puppeteer, grant them a strange form of life that is weirdly connected to ours: “To find this life in objects returns us to life, to the experience of life arriving from inside us and outside us, in all of its surprises, its energy of conflict.” This is the sort of book you can return to and find inspiration and food for thought, as well as information about an uncanny subject. Oliver Ho

Related Articles
By Marc Spitz
10 Jul 2014
Artisanal chocolate. Mustaches. Locally sourced vegetables. Etsy. Birds. Flea markets. Cult films. Horn-rimmed glasses. Twee.
2 Jun 2014
Legends like Bob Mould are held to a different standard, and Beauty & Ruin has just raised his bar higher.
By Matthew Fiander and Arnold Pan
27 May 2014
June's release schedule isn't just about the summer jams of 2014. Catch early glimpses of the latest from Fucked Up, Parquet Courts, and the Antlers.
By Matthew Algeo
10 Apr 2014
In the late 1800s, America’s most popular spectator sport wasn’t baseball, boxing, or horseracing—it was competitive walking. Indeed, when a New York arena overbooked, fans rioted.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
PopMatters' LUCY Giveaway! in PopMatters's Hangs on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.