Even those who know little about the music will learn much of significance here, perhaps learning how to love it in the...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

GO AHEAD IN THE RAIN

NOTES TO A TRIBE CALLED QUEST

Memoir meets cultural criticism in this bittersweet appreciation of hip-hop visionaries A Tribe Called Quest.

Poet and essayist Abdurraqib (They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, 2017, etc.) avoids the temptation to oversell his subject while maintaining a tricky structural balance. He somehow does full justice to the musical achievements of Q-Tip and his crew, to the influence of the musical world on this singular group, and to how deeply the experience permeated the young fan who might not have become a writer—and certainly not this writer—without their inspiration. In recent years, the author found himself with students as young as he once was who, as contemporary hip-hop fans, “had never heard of A Tribe Called Quest, and then, later, only knew them as a phoenix, risen from the ashes.” There was a 17-year interval between albums, and by the time what appears to be the last one was released in 2016, friendships had frayed and a crucial collaborator had died. This is a history of how two boyhood friends, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, teamed up (though the former overshadowed the latter), how they differed from each other, and how they needed each other. Some of the book takes the form of letters from Abdurraqib to each of them and to others. Elsewhere, the author chronicles the progression of rap and how the way that Dr. Dre challenged Q-Tip was similar to the way that the Beatles pushed Brian Wilson, as well as how the East-West synergy later turned vicious and dangerous. “It is much easier to determine when rap music became political and significantly more difficult to pinpoint when it became dangerous,” writes Abdurraqib toward the beginning of the book, a somewhat inexplicable pronouncement that he proceeds to explicate and elucidate over the rest.

Even those who know little about the music will learn much of significance here, perhaps learning how to love it in the process.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4773-1648-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more