The Browser: A quick look at recent releases

  • Updated: November 25, 2012 - 3:15 PM

"The Southern Journey of Alan Lomax: Words, Photographs, and Music," by Tom Piazza, and "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had," by Tony Danza.

THE SOUTHERN JOURNEY OF ALAN LOMAX: WORDS, PHOTOGRAPHS, AND MUSIC

Tom Piazza (Norton, 134 pages $35)

Alan Lomax captured the folk music of the South with his recordings, his photos and his words. His life's work is captured in miniature in "The Southern Journey of Alan Lomax." This spare volume is packed with photos and a short course on the legendary musicologist. Lomax started collecting music in the '30s with his father, lugging hundreds of pounds of recording gear through the South and Appalachia. He recorded through Europe in the early '50s to ride out the McCarthy era in the United States. Then he came back to find folk music joining the mainstream in a way he never could. But he kept at it, and this book traces his late '50s tour of Southern porches, churches and roadhouses.

Just that is interesting. But the accompanying CD gives the package its power. The dozen songs provide a Sensurround effect that puts the reader next to Lomax and his microphone, listening and learning.

MAUREEN MCCARTHY, METRO TEAM LEADER

I'D LIKE TO APOLOGIZE TO EVERY TEACHER I EVER HAD

By Tony Danza (Crown Archetype, 264 pages, $24)

Boxer/actor/teacher/reality-TV star/author? The premise is gimmicky, but I'm glad I didn't skip this one. Tony Danza wants to try teaching, and manages to swing a reality show at a Northeast High in Philadelphia. The show bails on the project after a semester because the classroom isn't titillating enough. Danza decides to stay and sweats, charms, teaches, preaches, fumbles, laughs, weeps (blubbers, actually), and writes a compelling memoir about the whole deal. He shares his qualms about reality TV and suspects that a few high-drama incidents at school were staged. He reflects on the undue value kids place on celebrity. (Why study Steinbeck if your goal is to hit it big on "American Idol"?) He describes his own giant missteps and asks painful questions about the state of education in the United States. The reality show may have been a bust, but the book is smart, hilarious and painfully honest about the problems facing students and teachers in America today.

HOLLY COLLIER WILLMARTH, COPY EDITOR

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