New In Non-Fiction

September has seen a number of new, first-rate biographys and historical treatises.  Here are two of these new offerings:

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise And Times of Charlie Parker- Stanley Crouch- Harper Collins $27.99

In 1973 there was a well-done conventional biography of the great jazz  saxophonist, Charlie Parker, written by Ross kclightRussell.  It introduced new  fans to the jazz world, as well as satisfying those already  well-versed, recounting the tragic life of Parker who died in his  mid-thirties of self-abuse.  To this day there are only a few jazz  saxophonists who can attract as much interest as Parker.  He did things  with his instrument that no other jazz musician had done before,  or  probably since.
Now we have a new novel by the great jazz critic, Stanley Crouch, which  chronicles the life of Parker, only in such a way that the writer takes the  reader inside the mind of Parker.  We get an idea of what it’s like to  think like a jazz musician. “Kansas City Lightning:  The Rise and Times of  Charlie Parker” is the first volume in a proposed two volume novelistic  biography that gives as much insight into the jazz world as it does to the life  of its subject.  Crouch’s language is as inventive as some of Parker’s  musical phrasings.  While not always an admirable character, Parker often  let down the people closest to him, his mother his wife, his child, his  bandmates due to his addictions and ego, but Crouch lets his genius shine  through.
I can’t remember a book  that so impressed me with its  language, its rhythm, its phrasing.  Crouch writes likes he’s improvising a  musical solo at a jazz session.
If you’re a jazz fan, a Parker fan, or a Crouch fan, Kansas City Lightning  is a must read.  But this is a novel for more than jazz fans.  It  introduces the reader to a world he or she might know nothing about, making  the larger world wider and more interesting.  It’s an impressive book that  left me with a desire to read the second volume as soon as possible.  But  I’ll have to wait for it to be published.  In the meantime we’ve got the  legacy of Parker recordings to fill the void.
-Steve Corrigan
Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma-Penguin HC- $29.95
WWII ended in 1945, a conflict that left millions of people homeless,  displaced, with nothing to return to but ruin.  Ian Buruma wrote his new  book, “Year Zero:  A History of 1945”  to better understand the world  his father came from.  He argues that reconciliation won the day over  retribution, and that it was this policy that allowed the world to return to  yearzerosome kind of normalcy.  The welfare states that were established after the  war saved Europe from total disintegration.  Buruma falls squarely in the  camp that social democracy saved that part of the world that was saved.  It  kept many people out of the hands of the Communist governments that were  persuasively extending their influence, at the same time robbing their  citizens of any kind of self-determination.
He uses the metaphor of the Orestia and the intercession of Athena in  establishing the rule of law to demonstate his belief that continued revenge  after the war, even though there were many individual cases when such practices  were carried out, would have reaped even more violence for an indefinite  period.  In relying on the law to bring war criminals to justice, Buruma  argues that the totalitarians were more effectively disgraced and brought to a  justice that lasted.
Although he considers the United Nations to be a utopian ideal, he marvels  at its staying power and its continued influence in our world today.  The  alternative is unthinkable to him.  Buruma is a gifted writer and historian  who has given us an interesting account of a watershed year, when the world  turned, after years of destruction and devastation, to the side of the  angels.
-Steve Corrigan
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