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Mark Steyn's Passing Parade Paperback – 1 Nov 2006

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Stockade Books (1 Nov. 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 0973157011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0973157017
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,173,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is beautiful. When Mark Steyn wants to take down the living, he is merciless. Here, he is attending to the departed. Occasionally, very occasionally, his subjects deserve a posthumous kicking, too. Far more often, he brings out the very best of them, shows us how special abilities transcend mortal failings. Steyn's taste in music is a long way from mine, so a lot of his heroes and heroines are musicians who wouldn't be in my top ten (or top two hundred, for that matter). Steyn's genius is that I actually care about the members of his Parade, because he writes so sympathetically about them. I don't greatly care for their music, but I still end up admiring them.

A lot of Steyn's subjects lived to remarkably long lives. One who didn't was Wendy Wasserstein. Mark Steyn laments the fact that she didn't. Politically, they were oceans apart, but Steyn openly admires Wasserstein as a playwright and misses her as a person. It's that kind of humanity which makes this book.
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I bought the book to help fund one Steyn's legal battles and had low expectations - who wants to plough through a load of obituaries?
But these ones are a celebration of humanity, a confirmation that people make history rather than the other way round. They're convincing because, unlike most obituary writers, Steyn either has first hand experience of his subjects, or deep knowledge of what they did.
He's full of unexpected revelations - Madame Chiang Kai-shek, wife of the guy who founded modern Taiwan, was so engaging that Eleanor Roosevelt moved her into the White House and swung the US behind her warlord husband. That changed history.
He's funny - he summarizes the famously accident-prone daredevil Evel Knieval, thus: 'If he ain't in action, he's in traction.'
He knows a lot about 20th Century popular music, and his final piece on Bill Miller, the pianist who accompanied Sinatra's big hits, is very moving.
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Steyn is such a lovely writer; paragraphs fly by, without effort. The book is somewhat America-centric in terms of lives lived: The joy of Steyn's ability as a writer is that one does not really care if the subject matter is an unknown; the quality of the text is a good enough reason to read on and learn.

Having read some of the author's other works I was surprised about the familiarity and obvious love of the "Great American Songbook" revealed here for the first time (to me, at least). Many of the paeans here are connected with Tin Pan Alley characters, the Gershwins, Lerners, the greats.

The final eulogy is to Bill Miller, Frank Sinatra's long time pianist. Gorgeous piece. Worth the price of purchase alone.
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As title. Mr Steyn is a wonderful writer and all these pieces are superb. For me the highlight was "A Death in Jordan" - I was completely unaware that Mr Akkab, Hollywoods premier Arab-American and producer of the classic horror film "Halloween" (and its lesser, if still profitable, sequels) died as a victim of a suicide bomb attack at a Jordan hotel. Halloween's "Michael Myers" as honour-killer is a classic Steyn comment: accurate, honest, and witty.
Highly recommended
(re-reading his 2002 obit on Paula Yates caused a pang, after the drug-assisted death of her daughter Peaches Geldof. Mark is a seer of our time)
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