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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 1, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 5
A holiday gift card user's guide
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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A holiday gift card user's guide

(or, how to spend money on yourself)

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Every holiday season ends with the same dilemma: How to use those 'buy yourself something nice with this' gift cards and cash enclosures. Emerald City book lovers have a wide range of choices, of course - but several Seattle-written, or Seattle-based, books deserve a close look.

SHALL WE PLAY THAT ONE
TOGETHER? THE LIFE AND ART
OF JAZZ PIANO LEGEND
MARIAN McPARTLAND
PAUL DE BARROS
(St. Martin's Press; 496 pp)


Paul de Barros, jazz critic for The Seattle Times, Downbeat, and many other publications, hits another home run with his second major book release. His first, Jackson Street After Hours, remains the only serious look at Seattle's early days as a major jazz city. His latest, Shall We Play That One Together?, is a detailed, fascinating look at Marian McPartland, from her humble start as a local piano player in her native England, to her high-profile marriage to jazz great Jimmy McPartland, to her life as his widow, to her stardom as the witty host of NPR's Piano Jazz program in her mid-90s. It's a warts-and-all story that simply cannot be put down. This writer started the book en route to the airport on public transportation, read it at the airport waiting for a holiday flight to San Francisco, read it on the plane, read it on the Airporter, and finished it at 2 a.m. in the hotel room. Yes, dear reader, it is that kind of book.

De Barros is a wonderful writer, an incredible journalist, and an honored colleague. It was a pleasure from start to finish to read and review this monumental work. Another of those SGN and Hamlin high rankings: 14 out of a possible 10. Buy it for yourself and learn, laugh, revisit your youth, and, most of all, enjoy the first biography of the living legend that is McPartland. There will probably never be another book that so completely captures the spirit of a jazz musician. An added bonus for feminist readers is her incredibly honest depiction of a very troubled marriage to a very troubled man, and her unstoppable determination to make that marriage work - on her terms. And it did.

JOHSEL NAMKUNG:
A RETROSPECTIVE
RICHARD BUSHER (ed.)
(Cosgrove Editions; 144 pp)


This is the 'must have' book of the year - perhaps the decade - for serious art and/or photography lovers of all income brackets. Johsel Namkung: A Retrospective has various price levels. The size of a coffee table, this oversized book starts at nearly $200, jumps to about $500, and tops out at nearly $1,500 for a special edition in a classic clamshell presentation box. (It is rumored that Bill Gates ordered 26 copies of the special edition and 467 of the starter level. All of these were, of course, donated to orphanages in Africa to improve literacy rates.)

The Hamlin family has a number of working journalists. Our oldest son, George Andrew Hamlin, writes for various blogs, the Queen Anne News, and, most regularly, for the Northwest Asian Weekly. His review of the very impressive book simply cannot be better, or so thinks this proud father. Google it and decide for yourself. (Disclosure: Busher is a personal friend of this writer.)

FIFTY SHADES
OF GREY
E.L. JAMES
(Vintage; 528 pp)


Fifty Shades of Grey, by British author E.L. James, written as a joke (a send-up of the Hunger Games phenomenon), took off as a serious exploration of the BDSM scene in Seattle, a city the author has never visited. This Lesbian writer specializing in feminist issues read it and loved it as a spoof. Think Naked Came the Stranger or Candy or any of a dozen other clever parodies masquerading as literature.

As a serious work, SGN rates the trilogy a 2 out of 20. As a merry-prankster 'the-joke-is-on-you' spoof, it ranks 12 out of 10 - a total success, a laugh riot from start to finish. And, it's set in Seattle! Sort of. - Olivia Francis

FINAL WORD
Support your local libraries, support your local bookstores - read a book today and then read another one. Over and out.

G. Andrew Hamlin, Olivia Francis, and Michael Halladay contributed to this article.

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