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"David Lehman's A Fine Romance wittily explores the enormous contribution of Jewish writers and composers to the American musical scene. Lehman finds Jewish influence, or what he calls 'a plaintive undertow,' even in such unlikely upbeat anthems as Gershwin's 'Love Walked In.' His love-struck history is itself a major entertainment."
-- John Ashbery, author of Three Poems
"David Lehman's A Fine Romance is a spirited account and reminiscence of a time when Jewish plaintiveness and wit combined with Negro blues to give our American culture its way of singing. Everyone who hums the great old tunes will delight in this book and its wondrous lore."
--Richard Wilbur, author of Things of This World
"With brio and encyclopedic knowledge, David Lehman has penned a lovely valentine to the American songbook. Along the way, hard questions are asked, contradictions confronted and shrewd insights offered. The result is pure delight."
--Phillip Lopate, author of Two Marriages
"A wonderfully compelling and poetic analysis that re-envisions the American songbook." –Craig Morgan Teicher, Publisher's Weekly
“What a lovely book this is…Lehman is a fine writer, in full command of his subject.” –writerscast.com
“A Fine Romance is thoroughly enjoyable, right down to the short, witty, and informative chronology at the end of the book. Whether one is familiar with this music and wants to rekindle its romance, or unfamiliar and wants to ignite such a passion, this book is just the ticket.” –Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Though there’s lots of learning here, there’s no heavy-handedness: this is a chrestomathy of loved tunes and musical moments, evoked casually, but with wide authority and tact…song is for pleasure after all, if I can quote some non-Jewish jazz royalty in Duke Ellington, ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.’ Lehman has that swing.” –Tikkun
But not everyone liked their efforts, Lehman tells us. "Virgil Thomson, the composer and music critic for the New York Herald Tribune, dismissed George Gershwin's music for Porgy and Bess as 'gefilitefish scoring.' Whether you you regard the comment as a slur or just a colorful way to register a criticism, it makes it plain that Thomson's educated ear picked up the synagogue rather than the indigenous Gullah sound of Charleston..." Lehman is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry, the series editor of The Best American Poetry, and the author of seven books of poems, including When a Woman Loves a Man. He obviously loves Jewish music (as my mother used to say, "What's not to like?") and includes this telling footnote: "To me," said Lenny Bruce, "if you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish..." --Dick Adler
Posted March 9, 2012
An indispensable and eye-opening history of American songwriting in the first half of the 20th century and its indelible roots in Jewish culture and liturgy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.