David Lida

12 posts
David Lida is a writer living in Mexico City.

Book Review: Where the Dark and the Light Folks Meet: Race and the Mythology, Politics, and Business of Jazz by Randall Sandke

Sandke offers no critical commentary about this piece of advice that was given Armstrong after he left New Orleans: “When you go up north, be sure and get yourself a white man that will put his hand on your shoulder and say, ‘This is my nigger.’” Nor does he state that there was anything objectionable about black musicians being allowed to play in Storyville brothels and cabarets, but never to be customers. The same went for “black and tan” nightspots like New York’s Cotton Club, where blacks made music and waited tables, while “tan, tall and terrific” showgirls entertained the exclusively white clientele.

Book Review: Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen by Jimmy McDonough

In the Nashville of the 1960s, songs were typically recorded in an hour or less and mistakes were kept in because they made the sound more “human.” Fussing over them any longer than that was considered “burning the beans.” After concerts, fees were paid in cash in shopping bags. In the course of recounting Wynette’s life, McDonough describes a cast of characters that no novelist could have invented without being accused of stretching the borders of believability.

Book Review: The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow

There are cases in which even though relatives of the victims have argued against death for the killers, judges and juries have ordered them executed anyway. Dow writes of a prison chaplain who tried to get his clients to drop their appeals, “expert” witnesses who repeatedly lie while giving testimony, and police who play by their own illegal rules. Dow writes, “Their philosophy seems to be, so far as I can tell, that they are the good guys fighting the forces of death and darkness, and that entitles them to break the rules when they think they need to and lie about it later when they deem it necessary.”

My Prison, My Home: One Woman’s Story of Captivity in Iran by Haleh Esfandiari

Her jail term of one hundred and five days was the culmination of an eight-month ordeal. In December of 2006, she returned to Tehran to visit her ailing mother. On her way to the airport for her trip back, a staged robbery, perpetrated by state secret police, detained her passage. She was not allowed to leave Iran. In the subsequent months, repeated interrogations by a secret policeman did not produce the information that he was seeking, so ultimately she was sent to prison.

Nina Simone: The Biography by David Brun-Lambert

The granddaughter of slaves on both parents’ sides of the family, Simone’s stardom coincided with the civil rights struggle in the U.S. If it is necessary to find a defining moment in her life, it may have come even earlier than the Curtis Institute rejection. At her first public concert, at age ten in Tryon’s Town Hall, her parents were asked to give up their seats to a white couple. The child protested out loud until her father and mother were allowed to stay in their places.

Satchmo: The Wonderful World and Art of Louis Armstrong by Steven Brower

For someone who radiated pure joy, his beginnings were Deep South Dickensian. Born in New Orleans in August 4, 1901, his unwed mother was a sometime prostitute and his absent father worked in a turpentine factory. As an unsupervised child, he worked unloading boats and selling newspapers on the sidewalk. Evenings, he would stand outside nightclubs and listen to the great trumpet players of the day, including Buddy Bolden and King Oliver, who would later become his mentor.

A Saint on Death Row by Thomas Cahill

Dominique’s worst luck was to have been born in Houston, Texas, the principal city of Harris County. Since 1976, Texas has executed more than four times as many prisoners as any other state, and beginning with George W. Bush’s term as governor, it became the death penalty capital of the country. Harris County has committed more people to death than any other in Texas – they’re slap-happy about vengeance.

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption

When confronted with Cotton in a police lineup, Thompson had nary a shred of doubt that he was the man who had violated her. He went to trial and, after conviction, to jail. The only problem was that Cotton was innocent. As DNA evidence would prove eleven years later, Thompson had in fact been raped by a man named Bobby Poole, who served time for other offenses in the same jail as Cotton.

Amarcord: Marcella Remembers by Marcella Hazan

If we are what we eat, then Marcella Hazan, the author of what are often recognized as the best six Italian cookbooks ever published in English, has been writing her autobiography since 1973. That is the year when The Classic Italian Cookbook, her first effort, saw the light of day. Thirty-five years later, with increasingly sophisticated recipe books, restaurants and food industries in the United States, it is hard to remember how groundbreaking Hazan’s work has been.

Hollywood Lives: George C. Scott and Tony Curtis

At the airport, customs agents discovered a bag of marijuana and a handgun inside his baggage. After surrendering to the authorities, Curtis writes that he thought, “Whatever happens, it won’t be as bad as my childhood.” At age 50 – after he had been a movie star for a quarter of a century – he got to the door of the hospital room where his mother was dying from heart disease. He heard her calling his name, but could not bring himself to go inside.