8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2008
I have never had more mixed feelings about a book than about this, a collection of essays detailing Jamaican dancehall music and culture which alternates between fascinating insights and trite, shallow observation, with a tone that is at times scholarly, honest, pretentious, or silly. One quote that stands out in my mind is "A lyrical gun is the metaphorical equivalent of a physical gun." Such an inane statement (surrounded by other inane statements in context, no less) has no place in an academic study and talks down to the reader. At other times her logic is simply confusing, either because she makes large, unconvincing leaps or because her reasoning is just difficult to follow. Another silly moment occurs when Cooper attempts to rebut a statement from bad review which accused her of not being in tune with the culture about which she writes; her defense is a long, out of place anecdote about a time she got on stage with an erotic dancer named Mr. Well Hung (whose works during the day as a barber... another useless detail). This story is baffling in its inanity, inappropriateness in an academic study and the fact that it hardly makes her point that she is "with it" - in fact, some might argue that it only proves her attacker's point. And this is not the only time she gets defensive; she spends almost the entire introduction responding to detractors, which gives the book an angry, over sensitive feeling right off the bat. Nevertheless, Cooper makes plenty of fascinating insights which would be intriguing to those familiar with dancehall but especially of interest to those who know nothing about Jamaican dance and music culture. Her arguments are often simultaneously eye opening and easy to follow, encouraging the reader to press onward. Juxtapose these moments with those previously mentioned, moments that would make any respectable reader cringe, and you've got a highly mixed experience, mediocre in its entirety but smart and entertaining in segments. If you can keep the bad parts from tainting the good it's worth reading, but if by the end of the book you're fed up with all its shortcomings, it would be easy to forget about its more worthwhile parts. I recommend this, but not highly, simply because there really isn't much literature on the subject or many academic authors with Cooper's perspective or basis of opinion - that popular dancehall music, though crude and raunchy, is a topic worth serious consideration and study. It's unique but, unfortunately, quite imperfect.