Salon recommends

Why women love horses, why DJs are lords of the dance and more.


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Salon Staff
October 6, 2000 8:22am (UTC)

Dark Horses and Black Beauties by Melissa Holbrook Pierson

Everyone knows that girls who love horses and horseback riding vastly outnumber boys who do. Yet the New Yorker's recent issue devoted to sports featured an article chronicling the decline of horsiness even among young girls. Anyone who (like me) finds this upsetting and can't quite believe it's true will appreciate Melissa Holbrook Pierson's "Dark Horses and Black Beauties." Breathlessly subtitled "Animals, Women, a Passion," this exhaustive, impassioned book charges through history, mythology, folklore and literature for stories, history and theories about the age-old love affair between women and horses. Possessed of a wide-ranging intellect combined with a single-minded capacity to zero in on her object of desire, Holbrook looks at the equestrian attraction from every possible angle. The result is a heady combination of scholarship, theory, memoir and out-and-out love letter to the horse, that creature "so necessary, so adaptable, so gentle, useful, resilient, easy-keeping, valiant, strong."

--Maria Russo

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton

I have very little patience for writing about electronic music and dance culture. Most of it is done by jargony academic types who overuse words like "liminal," or by fan-boy scribes in magazines that read like yearbooks for the cool kids. But "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life," by magazine writers Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, is something else. The book beams in on DJs as cultural transmitters of dance music, from hopping jazz to Detroit techno. Elevating DJs to the role of high priest-like, shamanistic party-starters -- without getting all wilty and New Age about it -- the authors explain the difference between merely playing records and actually performing them.

What makes the book so good, besides the crisp, lucid writing, is that it also gives a fascinating, episodic history of the jive-talking radio DJs and Parisian discos that established the themes that would play out in hip-hop, disco and rave culture. And the section on the origins of performing-rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI, which were terrified that records, particularly when played over the radio, would put musicians out of work, should be required reading for anyone interested in the fracas over Napster and digital music. At the end, the authors point out that dance music is as corporate and comfortable as rock once was. Yet, they remind us, no matter how offensive the branded clubs get, the international dance underground percolates with life. Dancers will always want to dance, and DJs will always have a booth somewhere above the rest of the room.

--Jeff Stark

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