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A Fine Romance

Jewish Songwriters, American Songs

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Hardcover published by Schocken (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book
Part of the Jewish Encounter series

In A Fine Romance, David Lehman looks at the formation of the American songbook—the timeless numbers that became jazz standards, iconic love songs, and sound tracks to famous movies—and explores the extraordinary fact that this songbook was written almost exclusively by Jews.

An acclaimed poet, editor, and cultural critic, David Lehman hears America singing—with a Yiddish accent. He guides us through America in the golden age of song, when “Embraceable You,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “My Romance,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Stormy Weather,” and countless others became nothing less than the American sound track. The stories behind these songs, the shows from which many of them came, and the shows from which many of them came, and the composers and lyricists who wrote them give voice to a specifically American saga of love, longing, assimilation, and transformation.

Lehman’s analytical skills, wit, and exuberance infuse this book with an energy and a tone like no other: at once sharply observant, personally searching, and attuned to the songs that all of us love. He helps us understand how natural it should be that Wizard of Oz composer Harold Arlen was the son of a cantor who incorporated “Over the Rainbow” into his Sabbath liturgy, and why Cole Porter—the rare non-Jew in this pantheon of musicians who wrote these classic songs shaped America even as America was shaping them.
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Part of the Jewish Encounter series

In A Fine Romance, David Lehman looks at the formation of the American songbook—the timeless numbers that became jazz standards, iconic love songs, and sound tracks to famous movies—and explores the extraordinary fact that this songbook was written almost exclusively by Jews.

An acclaimed poet, editor, and cultural critic, David Lehman hears America singing—with a Yiddish accent. He guides us through America in the golden age of song, when “Embraceable You,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “My Romance,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Stormy Weather,” and countless others became nothing less than the American sound track. The stories behind these songs, the shows from which many of them came, and the shows from which many of them came, and the composers and lyricists who wrote them give voice to a specifically American saga of love, longing, assimilation, and transformation.

Lehman’s analytical skills, wit, and exuberance infuse this book with an energy and a tone like no other: at once sharply observant, personally searching, and attuned to the songs that all of us love. He helps us understand how natural it should be that Wizard of Oz composer Harold Arlen was the son of a cantor who incorporated “Over the Rainbow” into his Sabbath liturgy, and why Cole Porter—the rare non-Jew in this pantheon of musicians who wrote these classic songs shaped America even as America was shaping them.
Product Details
Hardcover (272 pages)
Published: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Schocken
ISBN: 9780805242508
Other books byDavid Lehman
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    The Best American Poetry 2014
    Edited by the National Book Award-winning poet Terrance Hayes, the foremost annual anthology of contemporary American poetry returns: “A ‘best’ anthology that really lives up to its title” (Chicago Tribune). The first book of poetry that Terrance Hayes ever bought was the 1990 edition of The Best American Poetry, edited by Jorie Graham. Hayes was then an undergrad at a small South Carolina college. He has since published four highly honored books of poetry, is a professor of poetry at the University of Pittsburgh, has appeared multiple times in the series, and is one of today’s most decorated poets. His brazen, restless poems capture the diversity of American culture with singular artistry, grappling with facile assumptions about identity and the complex repercussions of race history in this country. Always eagerly anticipated, the 2014 volume of The Best American Poetry begins with David Lehman’s “state-of-the-art” foreword followed by an inspired introduction from Terrance Hayes on his picks for the best American poems of the past year. Following the poems is the apparatus for which the series has won acclaim: notes from the poets about the writing of their poems.

    Yeshiva Boys

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    The Best American Poetry 2013

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    Over the last twenty-five years, the Best American Poetry series has become an annual rite of autumn, eagerly awaited and hotly debated: “an essential purchase” (The Washington Post). This year, guest editor Denise Duhamel brings her wit and enthusiasm and her commitment to poetry in all its wide variety to bear on her choices for The Best American Poetry 2013. These acts of imagination—from known stars and exciting newcomers—testify to the vitality of an art form that continues to endure and flourish, defying dour predictions of its demise, in the digital age. This edition of the most important poetry anthology in the United States opens with David Lehman’s incisive “state of the art” essay and Denise Duhamel’s engagingly candid discussion of the seventy-five poems that made her final cut.

    The Line Forms Here

    The Line Forms Here
    Relfections on poetry by a critic and poet who is also a distinguished literary journalist

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