Documentary Film: ‘Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp’

The African-American pulp paperback author whose 1967 book Pimp: The Story of My Life was a major influence on black literature and art gets his just due in the doc that was executive produced by rapper/actor Ice-T. He and such other entertainment figures as Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, Henry Rollins and Quincy Jones discuss this onetime hustler’s evocations of ghetto street culture in that book and others as his fascinating life story is told. At the same time a number of cultural and literary academics praise his insight and prose. A key figure in the American black experience of the last part of the 20th Century, Slim – real name Robert Beck – is well worth knowing about and reading.

Book: ‘Girls Like Us’ by Sheila Weller

This parallel biography of female singer-songwriters Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon is subtitled as the “Journey of a Generation.” And it does nicely mix cultural history with the life and creative journeys plus loves of the three seminal musical artists. The author pulls few punches in her portraits of all three women yet at the same time remains respectful of their gifts and flaws. It’s exceptionally well-written with a linguistic flair, and was one of those books I could barely put down. It’s also just as much a book about the women of their generation dealing with success in the public arena and its aftereffects – despite high achievement on the charts and their artistry, they remained insecure about their work, sadly – that stands as one of the best works in the music book genre I’ve read in some time.

Book: ‘The Billionaire’s Vinegar’ by Benjamin Wallace

Like a glass of fine wine, this is a tome to be savored for its richness. It begins with the auction sale of a bottle of wine said to have been purchased by Thomas Jefferson in 1787 from Chateau Lafite Bordeaux, and then goes into a vivid historical mystery of its provenance. The writing unspools like a great film, the story is compelling, and whether you are something of an oenophile or not, it’s a real joy to read that enhances one’s understanding of the world of wine.

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2014


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