08 October 2013

Three short takes

This is a great book to rearrange your piecemeal knowledge of early rap music and put it all into context -- especially if you didn't grow up listening to hip-hop pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and Run-D.M.C. Chang writes like he was in the room for all of these parties (which he couldn't have been, except later when he worked for Vibe); his work on the L.A. section was especially illuminating to me. Too bad right now this titular phrase is more associated with a white pop star from the South than, well, anyone more original and less spectacle-producing.

I don't think I've read a novel so focused on Jewish daily life (independent of other factors such as nationality or wartime-besieged status) since THE CHOSEN. At the start of the book, Marjorie, nee Morgenstern (she changed her name when she wanted to become an actress), and her family have just wedged themselves into middle-class Upper West Side respectability after leaving their relatives in the Bronx. Marjorie's acting dreams propel her through Hunter College, but her romantic distractions (as she sees them) steal time away from her seemingly inevitable path toward stardom. This book also (spoiler alert) ends with a total Crap Letter From A Dude, that at first I appreciated but then left a bad taste in my mouth. I assume the Natalie Wood-starring movie has a different ending.

This is the book I picked up at the Amtrak station because I recognized Lippman's name and have liked some of her books featuring P.I. Tess Monaghan (as this one does). My trouble with this book was that Tess was the only person she knew who behaved at all rationally. Everyone else around her was Hiding A Deep Dark Secret, and that was telegraphed so early I got confused about whose Deep Dark Secrets were whose. "But why?" was the question I was always asking. This should have been zippy enough to suspend my disbelief. But I still enjoyed it, especially a scene set in an under-21 club.

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