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As a cultural and political commentator, Stanley Crouch in unapologetically contentious and delightfully iconoclastic. Whether he is writing on the uniqueness of the American South, the death of Tupak Shakur, the O.J. Simpson verdict, or the damage done by the Oklahoma City bombing, Crouch's high-velocity exchange with American culture is conducted with scrupulous allegiance to the truth, even when it hurts—and it usually does. And on the subject of jazz—from Sidney Bechet to Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington to Miles Davis—there is no one more articulate, impassioned, and encyclopedic in his knowledge than Stanley Crouch.
Crouch approaches everything in his path with head-on energy, restless intelligence, and a refreshing faith in the collective experiment that is America—and he does so in a virtuosic prose style that is never less than thrilling.
Crouch (The All-American Skin Game) offers another collection of his speeches and essays gathered from sources ranging from the New York Daily News to the Partisan Review. He stresses that this work builds on his previous efforts; indeed, he again offers praise for Albert Murray, a multifaceted author who has no truck with black separatism, and repeats his own trenchant criticisms of racial and ethnic balkanization. This book unfortunately has the feel of a grab bag: interesting but long essays on Faulkner, Murray and Duke Ellington; less enduring columns on the likes of Ron Brown, Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor and the anniversary of the end of WWII. Still, Crouch's fluid style, clearly influenced by the blues and jazz he loves, keeps his prose interesting. And though his celebratory words about American democracy can sound flowery, his pugnacious comments on race--criticizing the "updated minstrelsy of thug life" or challenging those who imposed racial authenticity on O.J. Simpson--remain a topic for debate.