Natural Selection: Gary Giddins on Comedy, Film, Music, and Books by Gary Giddins, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Natural Selection: Gary Giddins on Comedy, Film, Music, and Books

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

by Gary Giddins
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

Overview

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 film.
A wonderful gathering of little-known treasures, Natural Selection will broaden the perception of Gary Giddins as one of our most important cultural critics.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A critic who wears his erudition lightly, writes with an impeccable combination of verve and sobriety and, above all, makes you see (and hear) the objects of his ruminations.... An engaging mind fully engaged with significant cultural objects in which it finds useful, surprising resonances.... We see our culture more clearly because of the force, intelligence and alertness to overlooked detail that Giddins brings to his readings of a past that remains stubbornly, if sometimes only subliminally, present in our own less acute remembrances."-Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times

"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)

"Gary Giddins is well known for his sensitive and brilliantly insightful books and articles about jazz, but it turns out he is equally at home, and equally enthralling, writing about the movies (foreign and domestic), TV and radio personalities, fiction, authors of all sorts, and even rock music. The essays that make up this Natural Selection, taken individually, are often as good as humanist, personal criticism can possibly get, and taken as a whole, the book is very difficult to lay aside. You think you'll just read one more piece, and then you're into another couple because the ideas and style are so inviting, enjoyable, and revealing. When you've finished the whole thing, all you want is MORE!"—Peter Bogdanovich

"I'm not surprised that our premier jazz critic also turns out to be such an avid, knowledgeable writer on film as well as a discerning literary reader. Giddins's enthusiasm is contagious—his writing invariably gives genius its due. His essays on movies, music, and books are not only fluent and entertaining; they pack a shameless quotient of appreciation, information, and discrimination into a brief compass." —Morris Dickstein, author of Gates of Eden, Leopards in the Temple, and A Mirror in the Roadway

"Gary Giddins is not just giving us reviews—he's giving us autobiography, sharing with us the tastes, moods, observations, and passions of a man gifted with a pitch-perfect ear and a discerning eye. Natural Selection is his guided tour through the artifacts of his evolution. And along the way we evolve too as we realize we are traveling with a great sharer and passionate teacher. Listen and learn." —Philip Kaufman, film director

"Gary Giddins is one of our most important cultural critics, but it's only with this collection that I realized just how knowledgeable and expansive his sensibility is. I'm particularly glad to have in book form his DVD columns for The New York Sun, where he's given the space to resurrect lesser-known films, place them in context, and make readers want to get hold of and watch them with Giddins's book as guide. A must-have for every movie-lover's shelf!" —Molly Haskell, critic and author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies

Ada Calhoun
[Giddons] makes the case that popular culture, in all its minutiae, ultimately engages us with the world; immersing oneself in a book, song or film is the very opposite of escapist.
— The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195179514
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
08/01/2006
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

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 City.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >