In wrapping of the year’s best-of-2012 lists, we couldn’t help but single out the University of Chicago Press titles that made the cut as reads worth remembering. With that in mind, here’s a list of our books that earned praise as cream of the crop here and abroad, from scholarly journals, literary blogs, metropolitan newspapers, and the like. If you’re looking, might we (and others) recommend—
A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava
made the Philadelphia City Paper’s Best of the Year list named one of the best books of the year by the Houston Chronicle included in Bookriot’s list of the five most overlooked books of 2012 picked as the book of the year by a bookseller at the Oxford Blackwell’s: “ feel so evangelical about I want to run around screaming ‘YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK OR YOUR LIFE WILL BE INCOMPLETE,’ in Billy Graham style.” named one of the ten best fiction books of 2012 by the Wall Street Journal named by Wall Street Journal fiction editor Sam Sacks as one of his own favorite fiction books of 2012 named by Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker as . . .
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“With Antron and Nylon and Lycra and Orlon and Dacron, the world’s a better place. You know we all have a smile on that started with Nylon and stretches across each happy face.” King of the jingle (and prince of the cabaret), Michael Brown wrote and directed DuPont’s “industrial musical” The Wonderful World of Chemistry, which would air an unprecedented 14,600 times, or 40 times per day, during the two-year run of the 1964–65 World’s Fair in New York City. (It should be pointed out that a bit of research on Timothy D. Taylor’s forthcoming The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture led us here. The book hones in on the indiscriminate blurring between advertising copy and popular music, unearthing an as-yet unclaimed piece of our cultural history—the musical aesthetics of consumerism, and its buzz-buzz-buzzing.) Brown was a children’s book author, lyricist, and producer, who penned tales about Santa Mouse and put the words, literally, in Carol Channing’s mouth during a run of Sugar Babies. The Wonderful World of Chemistry was his masterpiece, among songs scribed for notable Broadway musicals (like “Lizzie Borden” in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1952) and other “industrial” pieces. Even his . . .
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It’s nearly impossible to turn away from the tumultuous events in Cairo, and to make sense of rights and freedoms on the line from an international vantage. We’ve been following the feeds at the Guardian and most recently reading PEN International’s statement, released this morning, and thinking about the March of Millions planned for Tuesday. In trying to stay present with the coverage and assessing where to begin to solidify our understanding of a nation’s culture and a movement for its people, we came across the music of Umm Kulthum, whose fallahah (peasant) perspective imbued her life and work, offering insight into the cultural and political studies that Egypt faced only a generation or two before.
Kulthum, the “voice of Egypt” (also “the Star of the East” and the “Nightingale of the Nile”), was one of the most celebrated performers of the twentieth-century Arab world. The idiom she created from local culture and traditions helped her to develop a populist musical practice that was heralded as a crowning example of a new, yet authentically Arab-Egyptian culture, during tumultuous changes mid-century.
Perhaps most pressingly, Kulthum’s music and public persona helped to contribute to the artistic, societal, and political forces . . .
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Did anyone else watch Patti Smith on the Colbert Report Monday night? We’re Luddites without a TV, we admit, and this pales in comparison to her insanely gracious impromptu live appearance with the Tiny Cover Band at Columbia College in Chicago, but. . . . Sigh. Ms. Smith. May all of our cultural heroes continue to inspire with such ferocity. Speaking of: if you haven’t read Just Kids yet, why are you waiting? In the book’s opening, Robert Mapplethorpe is dying—going, going—and then (heart wrenches): gone. Smith wakes up, knowing and undone, to “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca: “I have lived for love, I have lived for art.”
I admit to having read Just Kids three times over within 72 hours of purchase. I admit to my own repeated listening to the music that informs the work, Smith’s own life: Puccini; Tim Hardin; an awkward, failed reevaluation of the Doors; Radio Ethiopia again and again. But the Puccini—there must be something in the air.
One-hundred years ago, this past Friday, Puccini’s la Faniculla del West (adapted from David Belasco’s play, The Girl of the Golden West) premiered at the Metropolitan Opera. From the New York Times‘s recent centenary commemoration:
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Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured a lengthy appreciation of the work of Gustav Mahler, tied to a new book by Norman Lebrecht, Why Mahler?. In the article, Leon Botstein points out that this year and next offer two Mahler anniversaries, first of his birth and then of his death,
But even without an anniversary to celebrate, Mahler’s music dominates the symphonic repertoire all over the world. Indeed, we have been experiencing Mahler mania for almost four decades now.
Fortunately for Mahler fans, Mahler mania extends to books as well, and Botstein’s article comes with a useful sidebar listing of key works on Mahler’s life and music.
One of those is our own Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy, by Theodor Adorno, which Botstein calls “the most challenging interpretation of the music.” Given the depth of Adorno’s engagement with music throughout his career, it’s no surprise that his writings on Mahler are challenging—nor that they’re insightful enough to be worth the trouble. For Adorno, writes Botstein, “Mahler’s music was unsentimental: a reaction against Romanticism and a harbinger of Modernism. . . an exercise in the use of art as an instrument of ethics.”
For more information about Adorno’s book, go here. And . . .
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The Telegraph recently ran a review of two new books on two of the greatest names in twentieth century jazz. In his review Ian Thomson sets Harvey G. Cohen’s Duke Ellington’s America alongside a new book on Thelonious Monk, both of which, Thomson argues, eloquently demonstrate how these “two giants of jazz … reinvented black American music.” The review begins:
At a funeral in New Orleans in 1901, Joe “King” Oliver played a blues-drenched dirge on the trumpet. This was the new music they would soon call jazz. A century on, from the hothouse stomps of Duke Ellington to the angular doodlings of Thelonious Monk, jazz survives as an important musical voice of America.
Ellington was the first jazz composer of real distinction. No other bandleader so consistently redefined the sound and scope of jazz. As a classically trained pianist he fused the hot, syncopated sounds of Jazz Age Harlem with an element of dissonance to produce something unique: a dance music of trance-inducing charm, originality and attack.
Continue reading at the telegraph.co.uk and read this excerpt from Cohen’s book.
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