"We Americans," Stanley Crouch argues in the introduction to this collection of his recent essays and reviews, "no matter our superficial distinctions, are always in the middle of a dialogue, an eternal -- and inevitable -- democratic discourse." On the evidence of these pieces, Crouch brings one of the most provocative and original voices in American letters to the discussion. Whether he's writing about race and the Simpson trial, the careers of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, the films of Quentin Tarantino, the sociology of W.E.B. DuBois or the novels of Saul Bellow, Crouch is always working, with considerable zest, to discard layers of cant and confusion, to return every debate to first causes, to identify the essential features of any question.
Crouch first gained recognition for his writings on jazz, and there is a wonderful improvisational energy to his prose, a free flowing and very deft interweaving of precise observation and frank autobiography. There are also echoes in his prose of the two writers he most admires, Albert Murray and Ralph Ellison.
Throughout these pieces Crouch is at pains to remind his readers that our increasingly dogmatic and ill-formed concepts of race are distracting us from coming to grips with the core problems we face. He is, nonetheless, guardedly optimistic: "It seems to me that we are rising, head first...to a world far more complex and rewarding." If that's so, it very likely owes something to the bracing clarity and force of Stanley Crouch's work.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In speeches, essays and reviews from publications like the New Republic, Crouch (Notes of a Hanging Judge) offers eloquent, pungent takes on racial politics, literature, film and music. The author made his name as a jazz critic, and he invokes jazz to proclaim that our society's "multiple miscegenations'' are proof and source of enduring vitality and renewal. Thus, he has no truck with racial balkanizers or those who claim rapsters as the soul of black authenticity. A disciple of Ralph Ellison, he hails the recently departed writer as "a citizen of this nation'' and argues that black filmmakers must develop a more nuanced American vision. Crouch's deconstruction of Miles Davis, his sympathy for Quentin Tarantino, his celebration of novelist Leon Forrest-all make good reading. So what's missing? Crouch's view of a practical politics to engage and enhance his oft-invoked democratic vistas. (Nov.)
A collection of incisive speeches, essays, and reviews on race and culture in American society, by the eloquent though frequently combative Crouch. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Crouch, contributing editor to the New Republic, once a jazz critic for Village Voice, artistic consultant to Jazz at Lincoln Center, and author of Notes of a Hanging Judge (1990), is not an easy person to relate to because he is one of those "in-your-face" thinkers whose very smugness seems meant to alienate and provoke. He refers to himself and other blacks as "Negroes" and Amiri Baraka as LeRoi Jones; surprisingly, Malcolm X is not recognized as Malcolm Little (mustn't give him ideas). One gets the feeling from his numerous television appearances that the conservative Right consult only with Crouch on questions about black Americans, for no black critic attacks liberals, feminists, and black power leaders with the flair of Mr. Crouch. This self-conscious flair extends to his writing in spades, as in the opening essay on the role of the outlaw in American democracy, where at one point he writes of a "set of appetites focused on the exotic, bedeviled by a nostalgia for the mud, given to a love of sensationalism that completely hollows out a pretentious vulgarity." So, imagine my frustration as I continued reading to discover a creative, at times, eloquent thinker who will lead readers through many subtle discoveries if given the chance. The book is a collection of pieces Crouch prepared for diverse purposes: essays printed elsewhere, converted talks, and reflections on cultural happenings. His interests are wide ranging--film, literature, politics--all informed by a keen analytical mind that, at times, transcends the liberal or conservative labels. His analysis of films vis-a-vis his concerns for the challenges black filmmakers "need to meet" yields startling results when applied to the work of Quentin Tarantino, Albert and Allen Hughes' Menace to Society, and Leon Ichaso's Sugar Hill. This in-your-face Negro, this provocateur, talks a lot of interesting stuff.
From the Publisher
"A very shrewd commentator with an ability to spot the racial cant and hypocrisy with which our public discourse is infected"The Washington Post