Sunday, April 12, 2015

books of PCA

The Popular Culture Association dealers' room is full of the kind of books that interest me. Last year my best find was The Presidents We Imagine by Jeff Smith (University of Wisconsin Press), a history of what both fictional presidents and the popular images of real presidents say about our idea of the office. This year I found two particularly interesting books at the Rowman & Littlefield table on the last day, so I got them for a nice end-of-con discount.

Classical Music in a Changing Culture: Essays from the American Record Guide by Donald Vroon (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)
The question that the existence of Donald Vroon poses is: is it possible to profess his admirable and high-minded convictions - in maintaining high standards of culture, in the abiding greatness of the finest classical music - without being a cranky old git about it? Because for Mr. Vroon it certainly isn't. The relentless get-off-my-lawniness of his writing, the sloppy carelessness of his sweeping denunciations of popular culture and contemporary society, the touch of racism with which he acknowledges that classical music isn't for everybody (oh yes he does: see p. 37) - these are enough to make me re-examine my own convictions. A writer who, while sharing your own beliefs and standards, makes you doubt the worthiness of all of them is a rare gift indeed. Could Mr. Vroon be an agent provocateur out to give artistic elitism a bad name? That would be more palatable than the idea that he means it all seriously.

A Book About the Film Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Darl Larsen (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)
There is a land somewhere on beyond trivia. No, further off ... No, further than that. There you will find this book. Six hundred large pages of small print, all about this one movie. Less focused on writing and production details, though there's plenty of that, than on historical sources and contemporary analogues. If this weren't my favorite movie in all the world, I wouldn't touch this book. As it is, I could hardly live without it.

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