In the News, December 2013
Posted 12.05.13: Diane Ravitch has won the 2014 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education for her 2010 book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.
Posted 12.05.13: Stephen L. Carter writing in Bloomberg View chooses Nicholas A. Basbanes's On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History as the general nonfiction "Best Book of 2013": "I will confess to being an enormous Basbanes fan, but this volume may well be his best."
Posted 12.03.13: "Most books by incumbent politicians are not worth the paper they never should have been written on. If, however, enough voters read Walker's nonfiction thriller, it will make him a—perhaps the—leading candidate for his party's 2016 presidential nomination."—George F. Will on Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge by Gov. Scott Walker and Marc A. Thiessen
Posted 12.03.13: “Basbanes is an especially congenial writer, a quality he displayed memorably in A Gentle Madness, his 1999 history of book collecting and collectors. He does it again most pleasurably in On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History a wide-ranging investigation into the ‘everything' of that ubiquitous and indispensable construction of cellulose fibers whose history paralleled—and made possible—the rise of civilization.”—David Walton, The Dallas Morning News
Posted 12.03.13: Kirkus Reviews has named Terry Teachout's Duke a “Nonfiction Book of the Year”, and in this coming Sunday's New York Times Book Review, James Gavin writes: “Ellington's newest biographer, Terry Teachout, clearly saw the challenge of writing about the enigmatic legend.... Yet in his cleareyed reassessment of a man regarded in godlike terms, Teachout delves behind 'the mask of smiling, noncommittal urbanity that he showed to the world.' The facts and stories he relates aren't new, but rarely have they had such a compelling narrative flow or ring of reliability. As in his last book, Pops, Teachout keeps his psychoanalyzing within safe limits; he contextualizes historically without sounding contrived, and honors his subject's musical achievements through just the right amount of close analysis.... Teachout relates even the most dramatic episodes in the Ellington story with a poised impartiality. He doesn't take a novelistic approach, nor does he describe music with the lyrical flights of fancy favored by such writers as Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs. Teachout writes in an earthbound style marked by sound scholarship and easy readability. He particularly shines in his portraits of Ellington's renown sidemen.... In Teachout's poignant last pages, the jazz giant is broke and passé, yet still addicted to the lonely life on the road with a band he couldn't afford to maintain.... Duke humanizes a man whom history has kept on a pedestal.”
Posted 11.27.13: "Sarah Ruden's superb translation of Apuleius' The Golden Ass illuminates this wonderful story with a brilliant modern wit."—Philip Pullman, "Books of the Year," The Observer; "An even more gimmicky book, brilliantly executed, is Sarah Ruden's new translation of Apuleius' neo-platonist romp about a guy who magically turns into a donkey, The Golden Ass, which conveys how truly bizarre the style of the original is."—Emily Wilson, "Books of the Year," Times Literary Supplement
Posted 11.27.13: On Arthur Herman's The Cave and the Light: Plato versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization: "Herman sets out to show that the debate between these two thinkers, who lived about 400 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, provides the distinctive, even governing, feature of Western civilization.... An engaging distillation of much of the intellectual ferment that has taken place over the last 2,400 years. His vignettes touch on important, often forgotten, personalities and events in Western culture that readers—and students in classrooms around the country—might not encounter otherwise.... It's at least a one-volume bibliography for much of the best that has been thought and said in the Western heritage. Herman tells readers of the enormous influence that Plato and Aristotle had over Western culture." — Joel Gehrke, The Federalist
Posted 11.19.13: “An impressively lucid, compact narrative…. Teachout clearly elucidates Ellington's mastery as a composer…. Teachout's analysis of masterpieces like ‘Mood Indigo,' ‘Ko-Ko,' and ‘Reminiscing in Tempo' are revelatory.”—Jon Garelick reviewing Terry Teachout's Duke in The Boston Globe
Posted 11.19.13: "A substantial book, interested in hard facts and nuance rather than hand-wringing…. Glaser acknowledges that alcohol provides a form of self-medication during a time of dizzying changes in women's lives, but she is skeptical of the notion that alcohol abuse is the price of too much liberation. Her concise assessment: 'Women are drinking more because they can.'… Glaser seems more interested in asking why institutions aren't serving women's needs better."—Irin Carmon reviewing Gabrielle Glaser's Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink—and How They Can Regain Control in this past Sunday's New York Times Book Review
Posted 11.19.13: "Mr. Herman is one of those writers whose appetite for ideas and command of narrative drama make them a companionable guide through the thickets of intellectual history…. In The Cave and the Light, he seeks to explain the metabolism of history with a single master idea: the perpetual struggle or 'creative tension' between the ideas of Plato—which he says emphasize the ideal at the expense of the actual—and those of Aristotle, whose philosophy remains rooted in experience and everyday life…. Mr. Herman is an able storyteller, and his many vignettes are entertaining and often illuminating."—Roger Kimball reviewing Arthur Herman's The Cave and the Light in yesterday's Wall Street Journal
Posted 11.05.13: “All elements of Ellington's colorful, complicated, oft-secretive life—public and private, musical and personal—are brought to vivid life in this grand and engrossing biography by New York writer Terry Teachout, whose previous book on Louis Armstrong was also an indispensable summary…. Thanks to this frank and sympathetic biography—whose every page is studded with sharp phrases and keen insights—we now seem to know Duke Ellington as well as we ever will or need to.”—Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle, on Terry Teachout's Duke
Posted 10.30.13: Peter Schweizer's Extortion will debut on the New York Times Best Seller list at #8 hardcover and #11 e-book.
Posted 10.30.13: Terry Teachout's Duke is an American Library Association Booklist “Top 10 Arts Book”: “Teachout brings a fresh eye and ear to Ellington's virtuoso musical imagination and fecundity in this flaws-and-all, thoroughly entertaining, and invaluable portrait of the great jazz composer.”
Posted 10.30.13: David Lehman's Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man is now available at Amazon as a Chu Hartley Publishers e-book. Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times called the book, "superb" and "fascinating": "It stands as a lucid and fiercely intelligent study of the disturbing implications of deconstruction, and at the same time, as an impassioned argument for a more humane study of literature."
Posted 10.29.13: "Formally various...pretty delightful...thoroughly modernist.... A poetry-lover's poet supreme."—Booklist on David Lehman's New and Selected Poems.
Posted 10.23.13: A starred and stellar review from Kirkus Reviews for Duke, Terry Teachout's life of Duke Ellington: "With this exhaustive, engaging study of the greatest jazz composer of his era, Teachout solidifies his place as one of America's great music biographers…. With his vibrant prose and ability to get into his protagonist's head and heart, Teachout captures this essence and charisma…. Teachout's musical analysis is spot-on, at once complex and accessible…. Teachout's in-depth, well-researched, loving study of this American treasure is an instant classic."