Sunday Book Reviews – 3/14/21

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Stars of Jazz by Ray Avery (1998, Jazz Media)

It’s been less than two months since I covered an art book (Off the Wall at Sardi’s) and the general theme is the same: images of famous entertainers. That’s where the similarity ends.

Stars of Jazz provides only a handful of pages on Ray Avery, the artist behind the photos. His photography, as it happened, was his hobby; despite winning awards for the images he produced, his primary job was a retailer. What he sold were records, almost exclusively jazz records. His store on the California coast developed into a regular stop for some of the biggest names in the industry, and Avery became a frequent guest of the artists during their club performances.

Starting in the 1950s he took photos of some of his friends: black and white images framed to provide a sensation for the viewer of what it was like to be at a venue with them. Action and movement images for some, emotional poses for others. Those are the photos which grace the pages of this book.

It’s not a true who’s who of the field, nor even of that era of jazz musicians. Avery only photographed the artists who were available. But many of them visited the Los Angeles area, and his photos include such luminaries as Billie Holiday, Mel Torme, Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker and more. For fans of black and white photography, it’s worth finding and perusing. For fans of jazz, it’s worth owning.

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases ed. Jeff VanderMeer & Mark Roberts (2003, Night Shade Books)

This book is simply fun.

It’s a compilation of outlandish diseases created by a cross-section of prominent authors who regularly include fantastic elements in their work – whether traditional literature, contemporary fantasy or “dark fantasy”. The results range from problems like “Hsing’s Spontaneous Self-Flaying Sarcoma” to “Espectare Necrosis” to “Ferrobacterial Accretion Syndrome”. The offerings are presented and illustrated in a style reminiscent of late 19th century advertisements, which adds a sense of historical accuracy to the presentation. Of course the diseases are imaginary and ridiculous, but most of them seem as if they might have been deemed believable and presented in some ancient almanac.

The essays are by turns clever, silly and satirical; all of them are well-written and creative.

The writing styles for the entries vary widely and the occasional references to modern events can dispel the illusion of age for the book. That said, the short size of most of the entries are perfect for short bits of reading, with the only real issue being the likelihood of wanting to move on to the next one after finishing the description of one of the dangerous illnesses described within.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.