January 14, 2014

Tasty Reading: Shatz on Gopnik on Teachout on Duke

Tasty Reading: Shatz on Gopnik on Teachout on Duke

Here’s the LRB‘s wise and worldly Adam Shatz with a corrective take on Adam Gopnik‘s lazy New Yorker review of Terry Teachout‘s regrettable biography of Duke Ellington. “How Not to Write about Duke Ellington” is a fine readers’ guide and the way in to one of the feeling-est arguments out there this winter — on pretty much everything, including white folks’ commentary on black genius and all the covert dimensions of race and criticism in American art. More good stuff here.

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  • Kate McShane

    I love Duke Ellington. I loved his face years before I heard his music. How could anyone not love his face? But maybe some people aren’t intelligent enough to love his music. I suspect that is the truth. Of course, I believe you have to be very intelligent to love jazz. I believe it’s the superior music. Anyone can love classical music, especially if you will give anything to be upwardly mobile. Also, I think you have to have empathy to appreciate jazz to the degree that would tell you about it’s superiority. I got into trouble on this site once on the subject of empathy, but I’ve spent many years since then closely observing people without empathy and they never have depth, which deprives you of so much.
    I once read online an article about Ellington in Commentary. It’s issue was that in the PBS Ken Burns documentary about jazz, they’d referred to Duke as a genius. Someone wrote an entire article about how he wasn’t a genius, how ridiculous a claim it was. I’ve never understood why anyone would put so much energy into tearing down another human being. If Duke Ellington wasn’t a genius, WHO IS? I remembered a friend of mine, Grace Paley, saying “The most negative review I ever received was in Commentary, but that’s what they do.”
    Another point — Who the hell cares how many women he had sex with? He wasn’t known for beating them up or committing other acts of violence. I used to have an ongoing fantasy that I met Duke Ellington when I was a young woman, and I told him that I wanted to write a poem about each of his pieces. It was a wonderful fantasy. Around the same time, I heard he had sex with many different women in each city he performed, at first I wondered if that would have turned me off — I thought, No. Would I have been very happy to have been a one-night stand with Duke Ellington? OMG!! Thrilled beyond measure!!