Looking at the cover of Natural Selection: Gary Giddins on Comedy, Film, Music, and Books, critic Gary Giddins’ latest book, you might laugh yourself silly. Giddins, the critic of all critics, is viewed sitting in the dark with a pen he seems uninterested in using, near a drink that looks useless. He’s smirking, too: This is not the Giddins who has been so on point with his critiques over the years.
Fakeness is not Giddins’ forte; he is a fine critic and arguably jazz’s best over the last few decades. Yet he seems just a bit outside his comfort zone in the writings included in Natural Selection that cover the gamut of culture. Marlon Brando, Doris Day, Martin Scorsese and Groucho Marx are all subject to Giddins’ exacting style of criticism in these mostly previously published works.