“When Nora Ephron died in 2012, many who wrote to mourn her passing gave the impression of feeling they had lost someone close to them–regardless of whether or not they had known her personally. Nowhere was that feeling more common than in New York. Though she was the child of a pair of Hollywood screenwriters, grew up in Beverly Hills, and later directed eight of her own scripts, Ephron moved back to Manhattan after graduating from college and stayed there for most of the rest of her life. For New Yorkers of her generation–she was born in 1941–her essays and films, like those of Woody Allen, were a touchstone of identity and urban-nationalist pride…”
Archives for December 5, 2013
Ellington’s newest biographer, Terry Teachout, clearly saw the challenge of writing about the enigmatic legend. In “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington,” he calls Ellington “a riddle without an answer, an unknowable man who hid behind a high wall of ornate utterances and flowery compliments that grew higher as he grew older.”
Yet in his cleareyed reassessment of a man regarded in godlike terms, Teachout, the drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, delves behind “the mask of smiling, noncommital urbanity that [Ellington] showed to the world.” The facts an stories he relates aren’t new, but rarely have they had such a compelling narrative flow or ring of reliability. As in his last book, “Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong,” Teachout keeps his psychoanalyzing within safe limits; he contextualizes historically without sounding contrived, and honors his subject’s musical achievements through just the right amount of close analysis….
Teachout relates even the most dramatic episodes in the Ellington story with a poised impartiality. He doesn’t take a novelistic approach, nor does he describe music with the lyrical flights of fancy favored by such authors as Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs. Teachout writes in an earthbound style marked by sound scholarship and easy readability. He particularly shines in his portraits of Ellington’s renowned sidemen….
“Duke” humanizes a man whom history has kept on a pedestal.
No link yet, but it’s coming.
UPDATE: Read the whole thing here.
Here’s my list of recommended Broadway, off-Broadway, and out-of-town shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews (if sometimes qualifiedly so) in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.
• Annie (musical, G, closing Jan. 5, reviewed here)
• A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (musical, PG-13, reviewed here)
• Macbeth (Shakespeare, PG-13, closes Jan. 12, reviewed here)
• Matilda (musical, G, reviewed here)
• No Man’s Land/Waiting for Godot (drama, PG-13, unsuitable for children, playing in rotating repertory through Mar. 2, reviewed here)
• Once (musical, G/PG-13, reviewed here)
• Twelfth Night (Shakespeare, G/PG-13, extended through Feb. 16, all performances sold out last week, reviewed here)
• Avenue Q (musical, R, adult subject matter and one show-stopping scene of puppet-on-puppet sex, reviewed here)
• The Commons of Pensacola (drama, PG-13, closes Jan. 26, reviewed here)
• The Fantasticks (musical, G, suitable for children capable of enjoying a love story, reviewed here)
• Fun Home (musical, PG-13, unsuitable for children, newly extended through Jan. 12, reviewed here)
• Hamlet/Saint Joan (drama, G/PG-13, remounting of off-Broadway production, performed in rotating repertory, closes Feb. 2, original production reviewed here)
• Juno and the Paycock (drama, G/PG-13, far too dark for children, extended through Jan. 26, reviewed here)
“Derision or mockery always involves contempt and so is gravely sinful, so that theologians rightly hold mockery for the worst sin of the tongue we can commit against our neighbor.”
St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life