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Slouching Towards Kansas City

By 11.11.13

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker
By Stanley Crouch

(HarperCollins, 384 pages, $27.99)

Few reputations in jazz are more secure than Charlie “Bird” Parker’s. Miles Davis is said to have quipped that “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker.” Hundreds, if not thousands, of Bird discs, from budget-priced compilations to $300 deluxe boxed sets, are in the catalogues of various record companies. Modern students of jazz, trombonists, guitarists, and saxophonists alike, painstakingly transcribe and commit to memory his spontaneous solos, searching through alternate takes and obscure bootleg recordings in the hope of internalizing the idiomatic language of bebop.

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Whatcha Gonna Do If They Come for You

By 11.5.13

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces
By Radley Balko
(Public Affairs, 400 pages, $27.99)

As a first year law student and aspiring prosecutor, I was in potential-employment heaven at the government jobs fair. Nearly every federal agency was there, along with many state and local agencies, all promising opportunities to throngs of would-be deputies. Several federal agencies, including the Inspector General’s Office in the Social Security Administration, advertised that they let their employees carry a gun. That this gave me no pause at the time demonstrates that Radley Balko, a prominent critic of police militarization and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, has his work cut out for him.

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Capitalism’s Theologian

By From the November 2013 issue

Writing from Left to Right: My Journey From Liberal to ConservativeBy Michael Novak(Image, 336 pages, $24) MICHAEL NOVAK IS one of the great public theologians of the last half-century, and his new memoir, Writing From Left to Right: My Journey From Liberal to Conservative, illustrates why. Born in 1933 to a Slovak family in flood-famous Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Novak witnessed the last century’s great political disasters. His earliest such memory is of Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland.  As an Eastern European and a Catholic, Novak viscerally felt the totalitarian horrors that brutalized his ancestral land. And he would deeply identify with, and come to know, his fellow Slav, Pope John Paul II. Novak ideologically pivoted right when the mainstream Left lost interest in robustly defending democratic order. In the 1980s he pioneered a spiritual defense of democratic capitalism that morally explained the resurgent success of America and Britain under Reagan and Thatcher, both of whom credited Novak’s insights.
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Who’s The Hippest of Them All?

By From the November 2013 issue

What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White HouseBy Tevi Troy(Regnery, 416 pages, $18.95) HOW AWESOME CAN you get? The morning announcers on WTOP, Washington’s all-news station, couldn’t get over it. Bill Clinton and Bono had appeared on the same stage the day before and, as the show’s teaser put it, the President and the Rock Star were sometimes difficult to tell apart. Bono, it seems, started it by doing his impression of Mr. Clinton’s raspy and much-imitated voice. But then, to the delight of the delirious crowd, Mr. Clinton returned the favor by doing an equally recognizable impression of Bono. “They make fun of each other because they’re friends,” said one of the announcers. “That’s awesome!” said the other.
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Knowing All The Way

By From the November 2013 issue

Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism and How It Is Revolutionizing Our WorldBy George Gilder(Regnery, 400 pages, $27.95)
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Looking Through Orwell

By From the October 2013 issue

George Orwell: A Life in Letters
Selected and Annotated by Peter Davison
(Norton, 542 pages, $35)

HOW MUCH OF the real George Orwell can be found in this new collection of letters is an open question. “Good prose,” he once wrote, “is like a window pane.” The good writer, he told us, will strive mightily to efface all artifice from any piece of writing, leaving behind only his gleaming sentences and the thoughts and images of which they are the direct and flawless expression. 

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