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Washington Irving: An American Original
Washington Irving: An American Original
by Brian Jay Jones
Edition: Hardcover
66 used & new from $0.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything but the books, October 31, 2008
I agree wholeheartedly with the other reviewers here that Jones's biography of Irving is well written, informative, interesting, and engaging. His style is light and airy and anything but academic, which is a good thing. My only complaint is his total disregard for the books themselves that Irving wrote, other than how hard he worked on them (especially near the end of his life) and a few comments on how they were received by the critics (usually very well except for a few, "Tales of a Traveller" and "Bonneville," for example, that bombed). "I have deliberately left literary criticism and analysis of his oeuvre in the capable hands of others," he writes in the preface. Brief summaries or simple mention of where Irving succeeded or failed in various works would have added to the significance of the biography. It's almost like reading a book about a great general but never getting any specifics about the battles he fought. Jones's biography is very good as far as it goes; if only it had gone a tad further.

Charles Brockden Brown: Pioneer Voice of America
Charles Brockden Brown: Pioneer Voice of America
by David L. Clark
Edition: Hardcover
6 used & new from $25.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brockden Brown, October 30, 2008
I didn't know much about Brockden Brown before picking up this book, other than that he was America's first novelist and that his novels were "gothic" in nature and very strange (ventriloquism is featured in one novel and an instance of spontaneous combustion occurs in another). This biography added a lot more to my information base: that Brown was an advocate of women's equality, that he took great interest in all new scientific achievements and advancements especially if they had something to do with agriculture, that he was a strong advocate of a national literature and culture, and that he wrote a number of political articles and pamphlets regarding issues of his day (many of them anti-Jeffersonian).

Before writing this book Clark was given a large packet of unpublished material (letters, journals, etc.) written by Brown that then belonged to Brown's grandson, and much of this material appears in the book in full detail. Some editing was needed here; at least half of the book if not more is made up of these items, quoted in full. Fully 50 pages consist solely of the love letters Brown exchanged with a woman known only as Henrietta (she eventually broke off their engagement), and numerous other pages quote verbatim a pamphlet Brown wrote concerning Jefferson's Embargo Act. Each of these items reveals interesting things about Brown's views and personality, but much less direct quoting would reveal just as much. There is an excellent chapter, however, dealing strictly with brown's fiction, though even here the summaries of each work go on too long. I would recommend this book to anyone with more than just a passing interest in Brockden Brown.

Jazz on the Rocks
Jazz on the Rocks
Price: $19.23
14 used & new from $11.90

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steady as she goes, October 30, 2008
This review is from: Jazz on the Rocks (Audio CD)
This album originally came out on the Savoy label in 1958, and it's a "typical" (not spectacular, but solid all around) modern jazz outing from the period. Phil Woods (alto sax) is the "star" of the session, and his energetic, extroverted playing makes the date a huge success. Phil just loves to eat up those changes! All the tunes are Bagley originals, and only one ("Odd Man Out") fails to impress. Not an album that would make anyone's Best-Ever list, but the music swings and gives pleasure from beginning to end.

Northern Michigan Almanac
Northern Michigan Almanac
by Ron Jolly
Edition: Paperback
45 used & new from $2.28

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bursting with information, February 6, 2008
Here's everything you ever wanted to know about Northern Michigan (Northwest Michigan exclusive of the UP would be more precise): weather statistics, geographic features, individual towns, businesses, population and housing trends, government, transportation, architecture, sports and culture to name just some. Whether a resident or visitor you will find the book a gold mine of information about the area. Charts and graphs abound, but so do historical accounts of events and people: the story of King Strang and Beaver Island is fascinating. Complete is definitely a word that can be applied with confidence to this handsome book. Well illustrated, to boot.

Hurricane Destruction in South Carolina: Hell and High Water
Hurricane Destruction in South Carolina: Hell and High Water
by Tom Rubillo
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.65
70 used & new from $1.74

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of SC storms, January 10, 2008
After a brief introduction regarding hurricanes, what they are, and the meaning behind the 1-5 category ratings, we get the meat of the book: pretty much a chronological briefing of all the major hurricanes and tropical storms that have lashed the South Carolina coast, from as far back as the late 1500s up to Hugo in 1989 (though Floyd in 1999 is briefly mentioned). Information about pre-mid 19th century storms must be gleamed from diaries and newspaper reports, and Rubillo quotes freely from both, especially newspapers.

South Carolina has been roughed up by quite a few good storms, most of them coming, of course, before the weather bureau began naming them in 1950. 1804, 1854, and 1893 brought particularly nasty storms. Charleston seems to have a bullseye on it when it comes to storms making landfall. The book was interesting and geared toward the average person interested in the topic: it is not an academic tome. Recommended.

Once More With Feeling Clarinet Virtuosity of Phil
Once More With Feeling Clarinet Virtuosity of Phil
Price: $13.71
28 used & new from $0.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classy, December 8, 2007
For the most part the jazz world has missed out on the excellent playing of clarinetist Phil Bodner since he's spent most of his career in the studios. But every now and then he's popped up on jazz sessions and when he does the music is sure to be outstanding. This CD collects a handful of different private sessions Phil made in the '60s and '70s with various personnel. The best of them is one he made with guitarist Gene Bertoncini: the rapport the two men have for each other's playing and the excellent arrangements make for superb performances.

Almost as good is a session with pianist Hank Jones and drummer Butch Miles: their LADY BE GOOD is top-notch. A little quirky, even a bit schlocky, is a session with Dick Hyman on organ, and Bodner plays a version of TIGER RAG with a sextet that sounds like a Yankovic polka! Phil is not an overly domineering, grab-you-by-the-lapels player, but swings just as hard and has command of his ax as well as any Goodman or DeFranco follower out there. There's lots to enjoy on this fine CD.

Music From Guys & Dolls
Music From Guys & Dolls
Price: $9.79
27 used & new from $1.93

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rebecca Kilgore is terrific, December 1, 2007
This review is from: Music From Guys & Dolls (Audio CD)
Not the greatest run-through of this marvelous material, but by far not the worst either. The rather desultory playing by Harry on the opening track starts things off on a negative note, but the proceedings pick up nicely from there. Rebecca Kilgore is a superb jazz singer, and performs her contributions with great style and elan: she gives the impression of knowing these songs inside and out. Eddie Erickson is not quite so good, but does a credible job on LUCK BE A LADY and the final version of the title track. Harry plays excellent obbligato behind the vocalists, and, of course, really shines on the up-tempo tunes. But buy this for Rebecca Kilgore's superb singing: you won't be disappointed.

Ghost Towns of Oklahoma
Ghost Towns of Oklahoma
by John Wesley Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.92
63 used & new from $4.14

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, with good location notes, November 20, 2007
This excellent ghost town book identifies and briefly describes about 130 once thriving (at least kicking) towns from across Oklahoma that are today totally gone or are mere shadows of their former selves. About 75% of them can still be found in decent atlases (i.e., The Roads of Oklahoma), and author John Morris makes it fairly easy to locate the remaining 25% with excellent location notes. There are also maps included, though they are only useful in the most general sort of way. The book is also loaded with excellent historical photographs of all the sites, along with more recent pictures as well for some of them. Morris also gives postal information for those town that had post offices, which is most of them. Oklahomans with an interest in their past history will find much inspiration in this book, though any ghost town enthusiast will be pleased with the information found here, too.

Central Railroad of New Jersey: Station Structures & Marine Equipment (Historic Journeys by Rail)
Central Railroad of New Jersey: Station Structures & Marine Equipment (Historic Journeys by Rail)
17 used & new from $20.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Railfan's delight: the CNJ in pictures, November 13, 2007
This is a fascinating visual history of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, with hundreds of photographs of stations, bridges, towers, piers and docks, engine houses, and repair facilities along all the branches of the line, from Jersey City to Scranton, Newark to the Delaware Bay. All station stops along each branch are identified. The photos are all 1900-1930 vintage and were taken mainly from ICC reports filed by the CNJ during that time. Each photo has a thumbnail caption and short histories of all the stations are given. The only thing missing that would have been helpful is a map of the entire system or better yet, each branch line, showing all the stops - as what used to appear in the Official Guide of Railways. Regardless, this book is a wealth of information and a major eyeful concerning the past glory of the CNJ. A must for railfans.

Doctor Thorne (Trollope, Penguin)
Doctor Thorne (Trollope, Penguin)
by Anthony Trollope
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from $1.89

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love above riches, though the riches follow, too, November 13, 2007
Making money and a good marriage: the bulwarks of solid middle-class society, and the theme of Trollope's third Barchester novel. The good Dr. Thorne has raised his brother's illegitimate daughter Mary, and she and Frank Gresham fall in love. Unfortunately for Frank his once well-off family is now in desperate straits, and he is implored to "marry money" - which pretty much rules Mary out. He goes off to seek his fortune with the rich Miss Dunstable, but cannot be untrue to Mary, and in a very humorous chapter, Miss Dunstable calls him out.

Unknown to everyone except the reader and Dr. Thorne, however, Mary will inherit a great fortune if events go a certain way, and, of course, they do. The reader is, therefore, cheated out of the "surprise" waiting Mary at the end, but the scenes preceding this of Frank going through the motions of pleasing his family while he and Mary remain faithful to each other is worth that disappointment. The chapter in which Dr. Thorne stands up to Lady Arabella (Frank's mother) and defends Mary after she's been banished from the Gresham home after being seen as an obstacle to Frank's marrying money, is a highlight of the novel. Just as good, of course, is the scene near the end where Mary defends herself against Lady Arabella. Trollope didn't think much of this novel; in fact, he couldn't understand why it was so popular with the public, but he's been about the only one to feel that way. Perhaps not as good as BARCHESTER TOWERS, it's still one of Trollope's most enjoyable works.

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