The B Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song
knows and loves the American Songbook. But it’s a bit less widely
understood that in about 1950, this stream of great songs more or less
dried up. All of a sudden, what came over the radio wasn’t Gershwin,
Porter, and Berlin, but “Come on-a My House” and “How Much Is That
Doggie in the Window?” Elvis and rock and roll arrived a few years
later, and at that point the game was truly up. What happened, and why?
In The B Side, acclaimed cultural historian Ben Yagoda
answers those questions in a fascinating piece of detective work.
Drawing on previously untapped archival sources and on scores of
interviews—the voices include Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb, Linda Ronstadt,
and Herb Alpert—the book illuminates broad musical trends through a
series of intertwined stories. Among them are the battle between ASCAP
and Broadcast Music, Inc.; the revolution in jazz after World War II;
the impact of radio and then television; and the bitter, decades-long
feud between Mitch Miller and Frank Sinatra.
The B Side is about taste, and the particular economics and
culture of songwriting, and the potential of popular art for greatness
and beauty. It’s destined to become a classic of American musical
You Need to Read This
In You Need to Read This,
language expert Ben Yagoda writes about the cuckoo things we have done
to the English language. His witty, insightful, and wise observations
and advice are gathered here together for the first time.
From the phenomenon of curate, to the rise of the glottal stop, to
the prevalence of starting sentences with so, to the story of an epithet
of the moment (douchey), Yagoda chronicles the trends in our language. In the second part of You Need to Read This,
he examines the issue of mistakes and “mistakes,” and the battles
between prescriptivists, who nitpick grammar, and descriptivists, who
defend new expressions and casual usage. Yagoda is on the front lines
of the language wars, and you need to read this book to find out which
side you’re on.
How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them
Ben Yagoda's How to Not Write Bad illustrates how we can all write better, more clearly, and for a wider readership.
He offers advice on what he calls "not-writing-badly," which consists
of the ability, first, to craft sentences that are correct in terms of
spelling, diction (word choice), punctuation, and grammar, and that also
display clarity, precision, and grace. Then he focuses on crafting
whole paragraphs—with attention to cadence, consistency of tone,
sentence transitions, and paragraph length.
In a fun, comprehensive guide, Yagoda lays out the simple steps we
can all take to make our writing more effective, more interesting—and
just plain better.
Memoir: A History
New York, NY:
Yagoda traces the memoir from its birth in early Christian writings up
to the first years of the current century. Spanning decades and nations,
styles and subjects, he analyzes the hallmark memoirs of the Western
tradition-Rousseau, Ben Franklin, Henry Adams, Gertrude Stein, Edward
Gibbon, among others. Throughout, the idea of memory and truth, how we
remember and how well we remember lives, is intimately explored.
When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech for Better And/or Worse
isn't trying to reinvent the style guide, just offering his personal
tour of some of the English language's idiosyncrasies. Using the parts
of speech as signposts, he charts an amiable path between those critics
for whom any alterations to established grammar are hateful and those
who believe whatever people use in speech is by default acceptable.
The Sound on the Page: Style and Voice in Writing
writing, style matters. Our favorite writers often entertain, move, and
inspire us less by what they say than by how they say it. Ben Yagoda
offers practical and incisive help for writers on developing and
discovering their own style and voice. This book features interviews
with more than 40 authors discussing their literary style.
About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made
tells the story of the tiny journal that grew into a literary
enterprise of epic proportions. Incorporating interviews with more than
fifty former and current New Yorker writers, including the late Joseph
Mitchell, Roger Angell, the late Pauline Kael, Calvin Trillin, and Ann
Beattie, Yagoda is the first author to make extensive use of the New Yorker's archives.
Will Rogers: A Biography
in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), cowboy humorist Will Rogers
(1879-1935) had a "dual consciousness," in Yagoda's estimate. The
rope-twirling vaudeville monologist, salty political commentator, silent
film actor and New York Times columnist was the son of a
former slaveholder and Confederate veteran, but he was also one-quarter
Cherokee and the tribe vividly remembered Andrew Jackson's massive
betrayal of the Cherokees. Rogers embodied old-time values, yet he
"opportunistically" embraced the new mass-culture media.