Ranging across genres from the popular to the scholarly, this selection of John Szwed’s published essays abides in the intersection of race and art, jazz and rap: crossovers inside and outside the academy. With reviews written for the Village Voice and articles from academic journals, this volume includes essays, commentary, and meditations on James Agee and Walker Evans, Cuban folklorist Lydia Cabrera, Lafcadio Hearn, Melville Herskovits, Josef Skorvecky, Patrick Chamoiseau, pop song writer Ellie Greenwich, and jazz musicians Sonny Rollins, Anthony Braxton, Sun Ra, and Ornette Coleman. Also included are pieces on the prehistory of hip hop, the blues, popular dance instruction songs, tap dance, and African American set dancing; creole writing and creolization; race and culture; and authenticity, representation, nostalgia, and obscenity in American popular culture, with excursions into jazz in Africa, Russia, and Argentina.
Written about a country with cultural crossroads everywhere, where the question of race is thoroughly woven into the fabric of society, these essays cross boundaries and shed light on the complexities of American life.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006