Ask the Expert

Expertise has its own special allure.  Years ago, a good friend bestowed on me the gift of The French Laundry Cookbook.  Now, I will probably never undertake most of its involved, precise and fascinating recipes -- the time to do so just isn't there -- but I'm mesmerized by the insight into how Thomas Keller's genius turns ingredients into high art (Adam Gopnik's recent demurrals about cookbooks aside).  I could say the same thing about the fascinating detail a writer like William Langeweische gives into the work of keeping a plane aloft:  I'd never try to reproduce it, but the sliver of illumination into the pilot's work is one of the most delightful reading experiences.


So, even if you're NOT an aspiring hip-hop artist with a notebook full of rhymes,  a folksinger struggling to graduate beyond the open mic, or a garage band guitarist dreaming of an arena-sized apotheosis, you might find yourself becoming obsessed with Donald Passman's All You Need to Know About the Music Business, just out in a revised seventh edition.  I certainly am.   How does music copyright really work?  What exactly  does a record producer do, and how does he or she get paid?  How much do you stand to make if your song gets played over the end credits of Transformers 3:  Attack of the iPhones?  What about the trailer?  I didn't know that I wanted to know the answers to these questions -- but Passman's book is such a pleasurably informative browse that I do, I do, I do.


Needless to say, if you're a musician interested in making a living at it...there are reading incentives that should be pretty obvious.




April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."