"In this account of the world adventures of two splendid jazz artists, Bill Zinsser has given us one of the most exciting books about America's original art form that I've ever read. It's a revelation."—Studs Terkel
Since 1955, Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff have been playing, teaching, and sharing jazz around the U.S. and around the world. William Zinsser, one of our finest chroniclers of American life, tells their story as he travels with the duo to China, to Davenport, Iowa, to New York City, and—with Willie Ruff—to St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, where Ruff journeys back to the roots of Western music in order to understand jazz's musical legacy.
Zinsser also accompanies Mitchell and Ruff as they visit their hometowns in Florida and Alabama. We listen as the two men tell of growing up in small towns in the American South of the 1930s and 40s; as they tell about the teachers, community leaders, and family members who believed in two young black men with talent but no formal musical training; as they tell of their struggles, their perseverance, and their ultimate success.
Jazz is indeed a uniquely American musical tradition, and there are no better guides to this inspiring art than Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff.
"[This is a] thoughtful, adept, and satisfyingly unusual book of reportage…Though its contents are entirely factual, it concerns lives that give the sense of being but fatefully, imaginatively, arranged, and it constantly suggests improvisation—that is, 'something created during the process of delivery,' as Mr. Ruff explains the term to the Chinese…He also tells them improvisation is 'the lifeblood of jazz.' William Zinsser's book reminds us that improvisation is the lifeblood of life, too. [This book is also] about difficult passages that end in victorious arrival. Mitchell & Ruff is a deservedly happy book."—New York Times Book Review
"A highly infectious, Studs Terkel-like chronicle about the unorthodox development of two distinguished musicians."—Publishers Weekly
"Jazz came to China for the first time on the afternoon of June 2, 1981, when the American bassist and French-horn player Willie Ruff introduced himself and his partner, the pianist Dwike Mitchell, to several hundred students and professors who were crowded into a large room at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Probably they were not surprised to find that the two musicians were black…What they undoubtedly didn't expect was that Ruff would talk to them in Chinese."—from Chapter 1, "Shanghai"
For nineteen months William Zinsser, author of the best-selling On Writing Well and many other books, wrote a weekly column for the website of the American Scholar magazine. This cornucopia was devoted mainly to culture and the arts, the craft of writing, and travels to remote places, along with the movies, American popular song, email, multitasking, baseball, Central Park, Tina Brown, Pauline Kael, Steve Martin, and other complications of modern life. Written with elegance and humor, these pieces are now collected in The Writer Who Stayed.
"If you value vintage journalism of an old-fashioned vividness and integrity please, please read this book."—Wall Street Journal
"Our 'endlessly supple' English language will, Zinsser says, 'do anything you ask it to do, if you treat it well. Try it and see.' Try him and see craftsmanship."—George F. Will
"Zinsser—who, with On Writing Well, taught a whole lot of us how to set down a clean English sentence—last year won a National Magazine Award for his Friday web columns in The American Scholar. They're now in a collection that's completely charming, impeccably polished, and Strunk-and-White-ishly brief. He's the youngest 90-year-old you'll read this week."—New York Magazine
"A fascinating take on ‘the search for memory’ and how certain places have come to symbolize deep American principles."—Kirkus Reviews
Join William Zinsser as he visits sixteen of our nation's most treasured historic sites—unlearning cliched assumptions and rediscovering fundamental truths about America. American Places—and the ideals that Zinsser discovers these places represent—will never go out of fashion.
"Speaking across the centuries with stone and symbol, narrative and myth, America's iconic places remind us of our anchoring principles and best intentions. 'This is where we started and what we believed and who we hoped to become,' these places say. At least that's what they said to me."
"Niagara Falls existed only in the attic of my mind where collective memory is stored: scraps of songs about honeymooning couples, vistas by painters who tried to get the plummeting waters to hold still, film clips of Marilyn Monroe running for her life in Niagara, odds and ends of lore about stuntmen who died going over the falls, and always, somewhere among the scraps, a boat called Maid of the Mist, which took tourists…where? Behind the falls? Under the falls? Death hovered at the edge of the images in my attic, or at least danger. But I had never thought of going to see the place itself. That was for other people. Now I wanted to be one of those other people."—from American Places
"American Places paints vivid word pictures that put you in those places and make you feel that you've been there, but it also encourages each of us to take our own trek through history."—Riverside Press-Enterprise
"Zinsser's choices and descriptions are refreshing because of the obvious thought that went into the selections. It's also fun to read Zinsser's observations."—Chicago Tribune
But William Zinsser's book isn't only for writers. It's for all the people who have to do any kind of writing—memos, letters, reports, directives—as part of their working day. It explains how the word processor will save time and money in an office or a corporation and predicts that it will soon be our primary writing tool.
On one level Writing with a Word Processor is a manual for beginners that describes clearly and simply how to use the new technology. But it is also one writer's story. William Zinsser takes the reader along on a highly personal journey, writing with warmth and humor about his anxieties and fears, his setbacks and triumphs. His book is both an informal guide and an encouraging companion.