Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives
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Here is a brilliant new collection of essays on the sublime and the ridiculous in contemporary American culture and society, by one of the most important and compelling social commentators at work today.
"Fearless and engaging, a virtuoso at bringing the drive of natural speech into social criticism, Stanley Crouch transcends our usual racial divides to write in behalf of any and every American who will read him. Always in Pursuit is irresistible commentary on the American condition just now."
"Stanley Crouch heads right toward issues that other writers shy away from; he is almost scarily fearless. Reading him is like watching a sharpshooter--when he misses, it adds to the showmanship."
Brash, teasing, belligerent and tender, Crouch knows what he is talking about and he says what he means. When he writes about Duke Ellington or Albert Murray, John Ford or Ralph Ellison, that knowledge and truthfulness make it clear that you don't have to agree with him to learn from him."
--Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate
"Stanley Crouch once again proves himself to be a major iconoclast. His words prick the pages, provoking, irritating, prodding us to question our own easy assumptions on race, sex, politics, art, jazz, history, civilization, you-name-it. His pursuit becomes our own, as we see our world through his bold eyes."
"The essay on O. J. Simpson is among the most sensible and incisive writing from the mountain of commentary that that unfortunate case has produced. Crouch remains one of our most formidable social and literary critics."
"Always in Pursuit is everything I love about the brilliant Stanley Crouch. In his hands the essay becomes a great jazz riff on the page--social commentary rightly done as a singular 'I'. Written by a passionately determined believer in the American possibility, this collection of essays is wide ranging, fiercely opinionated, elegantly composed, purposefully challenging. Be prepared."
--Marcia Gillespie, Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Magazine
It is also true that the kind of man Penn brings to such palpable, imposing life might never come to know his own humanity were he not faced with the finality of his execution. Civilization is a thing filled with discontent, but we fail to truly comprehend our own duty to the recognition of hard human tragedy if we cannot face the savage means of institutionalized execution. It is through those actions that we express the deadly moral weight of our compassion for the slaughtered. With quite uncomfortable resolve, we sacrifice the murderers to justice just as they sacrificed their victims to chaos.
That bomb brought the meaning of domestic terrorism home to the consciousness of Americans in a new way on that bloody Sunday. We didn’t call it terrorism then, but, by now, we should know it was. It was also the twenty-eighth unsolved bombing in Birmingham, each a terrorist act. Those murdered in Oklahoma City vastly outnumbered the slaughtered in that Birmingham church, but the unrepentant killers of Carole Robertson, Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley were at that federal building in full, raging, spirit.
The explorations of Afro-Hispanic and exotic rhythms from all over the world heard in Blanton-Webster pieces such as Conga Brava and The Flaming Sword, however classic, were expanded upon and excelled in the 1960s and 1970s with albums and suites such as Afro-Bossa, the Far East Suite, the Latin American Suite, Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, and the Togo Brava Suite. The celebrated arrangements of popular materials such as Three Little Words and Flamingo weren’t put on a lower timeless shelf, but the 1958 reinventions of American standards on At the Bal Masque, and the 1962 handling of French street and café songs for A Midnight in Paris, move on up to higher places, displaying the distinctions of the past in admixture with the extensions, elaborations, and refinements that experience made possible.
It also proposes fresh ideas about what constitutes the avant-garde while beginning to clarify how the blues sensibility can function in the world of literature. In the process, Murray opposes farce to tragedy as a better way of handling the mysteries and absurdities of life. Stomping the Blues (1976) is the first and only poetics of jazz, twelve chapters that rise far above the too typical sociological clichés and academic foggings of perception that have made it so difficult for the aesthetic triumphs of jazz music to achieve understanding.
He was also young enough to speak across generations, to the Black Power young and the older, nonviolent types. Self-promotion and appropriation were techniques he never shied away from using. He loved the cameras and the microphones and those who used them loved him. Jackson was clearly the king of the civil rights hill by the beginning of the 1980s, unimpeded by the controversy surrounding the missing funds of his organization known as Operation Push. Unlike King, he had no black nationalists to contend with, no person or movement qualified to steal his thunder.