Natural Selection

Natural Selection : Gary Giddins on Comedy, Film, Music, and Books

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Long recognized as America's most brilliant jazz writer, the winner of many major awards-including the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award-and author of a highly popular biography of Bing Crosby, Gary Giddins has also produced a wide range of stimulating and original cultural criticism in other fields. With Natural Selection , he brings together the best of these previously uncollected essays, including a few written expressly for this volume. The range of topics is spellbinding. Writing with insight, humor, and a famously deft touch, he offers sharp-edged perspectives on such diverse subjects as Federico Fellini and Jean Renoir, Norman Mailer and Ralph Ellison, Marlon Brando and Groucho Marx, Duke Ellington and Bob Dylan, horror and noir, the cartoon version of Animal Farm and the comic book series Classics Illustrated . Giddins brings to criticism an uncommon ability, long demonstrated in his music writing, to address in very few words an entire career, so that we get an in-depth portrait of the artist beyond the film, book, or recording under review. For instance, Giddins offers a stunning reappraisal of Doris Day, who he terms "the coolest and sexiest female singer of slow ballads in film history." He argues eloquently for a reconsideration of the forgotten German-language novelist Soma Morgenstern. In a section on comedy, he offers fresh perspectives on the three great silent film stars-Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd-while resurrecting the legendary Jack Benny and reevaluating the controversial Jerry Lewis. There's also a memorable look at Bing Crosby's film career (he calls Crosby's blockbuster Going My Way "a neglected masterpiece") and a close examination of Marcel Carne's beloved Children of Paradise . Of course, Giddins also supplies excellent commentary on jazz: major and underrated figures, and especially the uses of jazz in more

Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 149.86 x 226.06 x 30.48mm | 589.67g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195368509
  • 9780195368505
  • 1,169,603

Review quote

"Just try to read all of 'Natural Selection' without buying at least a few CD's and DVD's; the Criterion Collection should pay Giddins a commission."--New York Times Book Review"In an age of blogs and the everyman critic, it's reassuring to know people as brilliant as Giddins are still ready to offer insights only a true critic can provide. This is an exceptional addition to a remarkable career.... Nowhere else in his works do we find such a wide range of subjects, which proves his perceptive talents and in-depth knowledge of the mediums of which he writes are unequalled."--Library Journal(starred review)show more

About Gary Giddins

Gary Giddins wrote the Village Voice's 'Weather Bird' column for more than thirty years. His eight books and three documentary films have garnered unparalleled recognition for jazz, including a National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, two Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Awards, six ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards, a Guggenheim, and a Peabody. He lives in New York more

Table of contents

Introduction ; Acknowledgments ; Part One: Comedy ; 1- Speechless ; 2- Hanging Tough ; 3- There Aint No Sanity Claus ; 4- This Guy Wouldnt Give You the Parsley off His Fish ; 5- Cowardly Custard ; 6- Idiot Semi-Savant ; Part Two: Film ; 7- Best Picture, 1889 ; 8- Who Was That Masked Man? ; 9- Reviving Ghosts ; 10- The Pulse of the World ; 11- Ways We Werent ; 12- Naked Truth ; 13- Things That Go Bump ; 14- A Few Stops on the Way to the Grave ; 15- Hokum Became Him ; 16- Primal Fear ; 17- Tales of Treachery and Loyalty ; 18- Incomparable ; 19- Awash in Ambiguity ; 20- Going His Way ; 21- Blond and Beaming ; 22- The Two Leons ; 23- Kong Has Crazed His Mind ; 24- All the Screens a Stage ; 25- Eternal Times Square ; 26- Once upon a Time on the Via Veneto ; 27- Charming Imagination ; 28- I Spy ; 29- McCarey Nods ; 30- Across the Pacific ; 31- My Life Makes Me Cry ; 32- The Holland Line ; 33- Still Curious ; 34- Broken Promises ; 35- Calm, Cool, and Now Collected ; 36- Rock Heads ; 37- Real Reality TV ; 38- Roll Out the Sixties and Well Have a Wonderful Time ; 39- Round and Around and Around ; 40- Color Him Purple ; 41- Call It Anything ; 42- Savage Servility ; 43- Simplicity Itself ; 44- Pretty Boy ; 45- French Doubt ; 46- Blown Away ; 47- WWII and the Whole Truth ; Part Three: Music ; 48- Mixing Hot Licks with Vanilla ; 49- Brush Up Your Porter ; 50- Long-Playing ; 51- Jazz for the Eyes ; 52- Regrets, Theyve Had a Few ; 53- Ambassadors ; 54- Explosive ; 55- Im Supposed to Deliver ; 56- Brother Al ; 57- The Arranger ; 58- A New Kind of Virtuosity ; 59- Beale Street Talks ; 60- Old Man Rivers ; 61- Whos Gonna Throw That Minstrel Boy a Coin? ; 62- Fresh Flowers ; 63- Put Your Voice Where Your Mouth Is ; 64- On Her 90th Birthday ; Part Four: Books ; 65- Harsh as the sounds of a mans snore was the name of Khufu ; 66- The Grove of Academe ; 67- Carrying a Torch ; 68-Muddy Waters, I presume ; 69- Soupspoons Blues ; 70- Short and Acerbic ; 71- Oxford Jazz ; 72- A Public Burning ; 73- Doin That Waitin ; 74- Closed Minds ; 75- Laughing Man ; 76- Hes Got No Kick Against Modern Jazz ; 77- Mr. Ellington, Meet Mr. Matisse ; 78- Fighting for Freedom and Bad Taste ; 79- Pops and Pops ; 80- Seduced ; 81- Fear and Trembling ; 82- Kaddish for the Jews ; Indexshow more

Rating details

12 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 8% (1)
4 25% (3)
3 67% (8)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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