Blog Archives

Press Release: Gosset, Divas and Scholars

August 25, 2006
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Press Release: Gosset, Divas and Scholars

Philip Gossett is the world’s leading expert on performing Italian opera. Conductors from Riccardo Muti to Bruno Bartoletti, and singers from Marilyn Horne to Renée Fleming, consult him on how to get the works of composers like Verdi and Rossini right. This magesterial book, the capstone to Gossett’s storied career and the culmination of his decades-long experience, brings colorfully to life the challenges, and occasionally even the scandals, that attend the production of the world’s most favorite operas. Gossett here weds incomparable expertise with his own triumphant experiences producing such celebrated and beloved works as La traviatta, La boheme, and Rigoletto. Part musical history and part back-stage-pass, Divas and Scholars will not only enthrall aficionados of Italian opera but also newcomers seeking a more reliable introduction to it. Read the press release. We also have an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Guthrie, The Nature of Paleolithic Art

August 25, 2006
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Review: Guthrie, The Nature of Paleolithic Art

Who created the cave art of the Paleolithic era? And why? In some academic quarters, those questions are regarded as more or less settled, and so R. Dale Guthrie’s book, The Nature of Paleolithic Art has been received about as warmly as the Ice Age. However, in her review of the book in the August 18 issue of the Times Higher Education Supplement, Nadia Durrani recognizes that the answers to those basic questions “remain unclear.” Durrani found Guthrie’s book a “fascinating and compulsive read” even as she acknowledges that it is “a controversial book.” (Readers of this blog will have noted our previous postings that have excerpted bits of Guthrie’s book to convey some of the fascinating content of the book. Plus we have all of the preface available online.) What is Guthrie’s thesis? The hot button that has drawn attention—and fire— is that much of the surviving Paleolithic art was not created by shamans for religious purposes or done purely for art’s sake, but was done by “testosterone-laden” young boys. Guthrie’s evidence for so radical a theory? Durrani explains: Guthrie’s thesis draws its main impetus … from the surprisingly limited themes dealt with by the art. Although Palaeolithic art . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 23, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

Whether you love them or hate them, critics have helped to influence and, indeed, define the jazz genre. In the August edition of the Literary Review William Palmer argues “that true, improvised jazz has always been a minority taste, and, without critics and promoters like John Hammond and Norman Granz, much of what we prize as real jazz would never have been recorded.” Thus Palmer is quick to rain praise on John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics which chronicles how these writers have affected how we listen to and how we understand jazz. In Blowin’ Hot and Cool, John Gennari provides a definitive history of jazz criticism from the 1920s to the present. The music itself is prominent in his account, as are the musicians—from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Roscoe Mitchell, and beyond. But the work takes its shape from fascinating stories of the tradition’s key critics—Leonard Feather, Martin Williams, Whitney Balliett, Dan Morgenstern, Gary Giddins, and Stanley Crouch, among many others. Gennari is the first to show the many ways these critics have mediated the relationship between the musicians and the audience—not merely as writers, but in many cases . . .

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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

August 22, 2006
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Review: Scafi, Mapping Paradise

The L. A. Times recently ran a review of Alessandro Scafi’s Mapping Paradise. Reviewer David L. Ulin says of Scafi’s book: “Mapping Paradise aspires to be nothing less than a history of earthly paradise … it is an atlas of the imagination, a guide to a landscape that remains just the slightest bit out of reach.” But though paradise may be beyond our grasp, fortunately, Scafi’s book is not. As Ulin insists “Scafi writes with a scholar’s thoroughness. Mapping Paradise is thick with footnotes; at times, the prose can get a little dense. it’s all redeemed by the illustrations, 21 of them in color, that appear on nearly every page.” The first book to show how paradise has been expressed in cartographic form throughout two millennia, Mapping Paradise explores the intellectual conditions that made the medieval mapping of paradise possible and the challenge for mapmakers to make visible a place that was geographically inaccessible and yet real, remote in time and yet still the scene of an essential episode of the history of salvation. A history of the cartography of paradise that journeys from the beginning of Christianity to the present day, Mapping Paradise reveals how the most deeply . . .

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Review: Dietz, Perennial Fall

August 21, 2006
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Review: Dietz, Perennial Fall

Yesterday’s New York Times Book Review has a review of Maggie Dietz’s new collection of poems Perennial Fall. From the review: When Dietz writes of bowls and hinges, I am reminded of Borges’s distaste for the criticism of T. S. Eliot, who always seemed to be “agreeing with that professor or disagreeing with another.” Borges preferred Emerson, whose writing suggested personal experience of his subjects, as does Dietz’s best work, which is intimate, idiomatic, and thoroughly original. Thus “Bird Bath” which deals with grief, shows the side of the bereaved that is hopeful (“Mute eyes dreaming a sense / of heaven, of what is next.”) and, at the same time, the side that is bereft (“But / everywhere the bald world and cold”). Even the saddest of topics becomes manageable in this poet’s skillful hands. At the heart of this unusually accomplished and affecting first book of poetry is the idea of the hinge—the point of connection, of openings and closings. Maggie Dietz situates herself in the liminal present, bringing together past and future, dream and waking, death and life. Formally exact, rigorous, and tough, these poems accept no easy answers or equations. . . .

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Press Release: Frumkin, Strategic Giving

August 18, 2006
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Press Release: Frumkin, Strategic Giving

The philanthropic landscape is changing dramatically as a new generation of wealthy donors seeks to leave its mark on the public sphere. Peter Frumkin reveals in Strategic Giving why these donors could benefit from having a comprehensive plan to guide their giving. After listening for years to scores of individual and institutional funders discuss the challenges of giving wisely, Frumkin argues here that contemporary philanthropy requires a thorough rethinking of its underlying logic. Philanthropy should be seen, he contends, as both a powerful way to meet public needs and a meaningful way to express private beliefs and commitments. He demonstrates that finding a way to simultaneously fulfill both of these functions is crucial to the survival of philanthropy and its potential to support pluralism in society. Essential reading for donors, researchers, and anyone involved with the world of philanthropy, Strategic Giving provides a new basis for understanding philanthropic effectiveness and a promising new way for philanthropy to achieve the legitimacy that has at times eluded it. Read the press release. . . .

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Required reading at the White House

August 17, 2006
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Required reading at the White House

In an opinion piece in yesterday’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer discussing the current conflict in Lebanon, columnist Trudy Rubin says that U. S. military strategy for dealing with guerilla tactics has shifted. “Hasn’t anyone at the White House noticed the U. S. Army is changing its doctrine on guerilla warfare?” asks Rubin. “Instead of all-out military assault, the new doctrine calls for waging a political battle for ‘hearts and minds’ while exercising military restraint so as not to drive civilians into the arms of terrorists.” “One key army text,” Rubin continues, “is Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife by Lt. Col. John Nagl, which focuses on counterinsurgency lessons from the 1950’s war in Malaya and the Vietnam war. … Nagl focuses on the ability of armies to learn from mistakes and adapt their strategies and tactics—skills in which he finds the U. S. forces lacking. He shows how the British in Malaya were nimble enough to defeat a communist insurgency, while U. S. military in Vietnam clung to a failing doctrine of force.” In the light of recent events demonstrating the need for the U. S. military forces to develop a more effective strategy for dealing with conflict . . .

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Review: Brown, Richard Hofstadter

August 17, 2006
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Review: Brown, Richard Hofstadter

Adding to the large amount of attention this book has received recently, September’s Washington Monthly features a two page review of David S. Brown’s Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography. According to the reviewer, Jacob Heilbrunn, “Brown has written an account worthy of Hofstadter himself: wry, humane, and illuminating”—a very gracious compliment considering Hofstadter’s extensive corpus of works, many of which, due to their sharp insights and engaging style, are considered classics in their field. Here’s an excerpt from the review: A biography of a historian seems fated, more often than not, to be a rather boring affair. Unless the historian has played a leading role in great events, it’s hard to imagine what even the most diligent biographer can uncover. That his subject read a lot of books, took copious notes, visited libraries and archives, and sat behind a desk, or, these days, computer screen, for a good part of the day? Somehow David S. Brown has surmounted these obstacles to produce a biography of Richard Hofstadter, the historian and author (The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life), that is not only a revelation, but also a fascinating read. Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

August 16, 2006
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Review: Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool

A review of John Gennari’s Blowin’ Hot and Cool in this month’s issue of The Wire commends the book, calling Gennari’s in-depth look at the history of jazz criticism “superb,” “nuanced,” and “insightful.” The review focuses on Gennari’s penetrating argument that jazz criticism has not only played an essential role in documenting the jazz tradition but, to a large extent, has been responsible for creating that tradition. Yet most interesting about The Wire review is its acknowledgment of Gennari’s work as his own addendum to that tradition— his attempt to “write his academic self” into the “problematic history” of jazz criticism which he describes. If The Wire article is any indication, Gennari’s work will continue to make an impact in circles beyond the walls of the academy. From The Wire: focuses on what he calls jazz’s “superstructure”—its critics essentially, but also some of its businessmen—to analyze what a much related story says, or almost says, about about racial and cultural politics in the American 20th century.… An account of Leonard Feather’s 1935 encounter with John Hammond sets up key themes of distance, engagement, and responsibility. Gennari has the pair at the Savoy in Harlem to hear Teddy Hill, pushing . . .

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Review: Ades, The Dada Reader

August 15, 2006
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Review: Ades, The Dada Reader

In the August 11 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education columnist Richard Byrne takes note of the recent “flurry of scholarly work” that “has opened up new vistas in the history of Dada.” Byrne reviews several new contributions to the subject including The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology. An excerpt from Byrne’s review follows: Expanding Dada’s reach and placing it in a wider context is the aim of another new collection, The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology. Edited by Dawn Ades, a professor of art history and theory at the University of Essex, The Dada Reader pulls together the key excerpts from the explosion of Dada journals between 1916 and 1924. Not only does the new anthology present dozens of texts that have never been available in English, but it also brings in journals far from Dada’s traditional loci in Switzerland, Germany, France, and the United States—including ones from the Netherlands and Yugoslavia. The revolutionary Dada movement, though short-lived, produced a vast amount of creative work in both art and literature during the years that followed World War I. Rejecting all social and artistic conventions, Dadaists went to the extremes of provocative behavior, creating anti-art pieces that ridiculed and . . .

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