Malcolm Jones

Stories by Malcolm Jones

  • James Rouse Sparked New Life In Old Cities

    HAD HE DONE NOTHING ELSE, JAMES W. Rouse, who died last Tuesday at 81, would go down as the world's most self-effacing real-estate developer. He wore rumpled, off-the-rack suits, flew coach and drove his own car. More important, the man responsible for introducing America to downtown festival marketplaces denigrated his own part in the evelopment process. "I didn't design it, build it, lease it. I didn't open it. Jim Rouse couldn't do any of those things. But because I'm the top of that pyramid, it's all credited to me. It's absurd." Even when you allow for a little false modesty in that statement, it's still amazing, coming from a developer. Donald Trump won't talk like that on Judgment Day. But then, as social critic Joel Garreau observes, "Everything Rouse did came from an unexpected direction." ...
  • Camelot. . . Going, Going, Gone

    THE MOST EAGERLY ANTICIPATED publishing event of 1996 is not a book at all but an auction catalog. Nearly a month before its publication in early March, Sotheby's, with orders for 15,000 copies, has already printed 100,000. At $90 for the hardcover and $45 for the paperback, that publishing schedule might seem wildly optimistic. But consider the title: "The Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis." Pretty catchy, eh? ...
  • From Sea To Shining Sea

    STRICTLY SPEAKING, THE LEWIS AND Clark Expedition was a flop. Like Columbus, they set out to find something and failed. As Stephen E. Ambrose writes in _B_Undaunted Courage_b_ (511 pages. Simon and Schuster $27.50), his absorbing new history of that fabled journey, "the real headline news from the Lewis and Clark Expedition was that there was no allwater route across the continent." In hindsight, that ostensible failure looks like a footnote. It's what Meriwether Lewis and William Clark found, not what they failed to find, that we consider important. ...
  • A Soulful New 'Faust'

    In the first act of Randy Newman's new musical-comedy version of "Faust,"there is a song called Gainesville that so plaintively beautiful it makes you catch your breath. Against a Coplandesque melody, Faust's girlfriend Margaret tells us who she is and what she's made of: "I was born in Gainesville, Florida . . . and my mother ran a cafe near the university/ And she didn't raise a fool when she raised me." A disarmingly simple lyric, it reminds you of what's routinely missing from most modern musicals: tuneful melodies twinned with words that draw on the color and cadences of American speech. Such songwriting has become an almost forgotten art. But if you'd been at "Fanst's" opening night last week at the La Jolla (Calif.) Playhouse and heard members of the audience humming "Gainesville" at intermission, you couldn't be blamed for wondering whether New-man might not be the next bright hope of Broadway. ...
  • A Listener's Guide To The Dead

    Anyone who ever attended a Grateful Dead concert knows that their 28 albums never fully captured the concert experience. Like jazz musicians, the Dead used songs as jumping-off points. In three decades of performance, they improvised and reinvented their material so thoroughly that no tune ever sounded quite the same way twice. One of the sadder aspects of Jerry Garcia's death is that the magic of a Dead show is forever in the past tense, because the Dead without Garcia are hard to imagine. For the uninitiated, their recorded legacy is the only option. The seven albums below supply the best approximation of their unique sound:(1969). Start here. A concert recording released 26 years ago, this quintessential album still epitomizes the band at its best. The seven-song set leads off with a 23-minute version of "Dark Star," a jazzy midtempo epic that continually knots up and then unravels like a musical quest for answers that never come. The band's signature song for a quarter century,...
  • From A-Ak To Zywiec

    If western civilization were equipped with a cultural Richter scale, the meter would have easily hit 6 or 7 when the Eneyclopaedia Britannica, awash in red ink, recently announced that it was looking for buyers or investors. Having watched revenues take a 30 percent plunge in the last five years, the Chicago company desperately needs a buyer who can give it a cash infusion. But if this is bad news for Britannica, it is equally worrisome to anyone who grew up convinced that on the Sunday night before the Monday morning that the term paper was due, you could trust the Britannica to save your bacon (see: 11th- HOUR PANIC, PROCRASTINATION). If this grand old bulwark of the culture were to fold, what hope is left for America's youth? Or for civilization generally? How did this happen? One big reason: the computer. ...
  • The Melting Of Those Little Town Blues

    "We were the most powerful nation," F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his 1931 essay "Echoes of the jazz Age," his attempt to sum tip the era between World War I and the Crash of 1929. "Who could tell its anymore what was fashionable and what was fun?" The question was purely rhetorical. "The Americanization of everything," to use Gertrude Stein's phrase, was already an accomplished fact. Whereas only a few years earlier America had looked to London and Paris for its cultural cues, now "the whole world revolves around New York," according to the composer and bandleader Duke Ellington. ...
  • Roll Over, Paddy Moloney

    If someone had told us in 1969 that Mick and Marianne would share billing on a hit Chieftains album a quarter of a century hence, we would probably have freaked out big-time. But now at No. 24 on the Billboard chart is ""The Long Black Veil,'' a gem of a collectionby Ireland's most celebrated Celtic bandand a roster of big-name help. Paddy Moloney, the Chieftains' outstanding piper and producer, has deftly created a musical environment to suit each guest: Sting soars, Van Morrison croons and yaps, Sinead O'Connor amazes, Tom Jones chews up large pieces of furniture, Marianne Faithfull gives her four-packs-a-day voice a welcome airing out and the Rolling Stones are at their irreverent best. But it's the title track, sung by a keening Jagger over a stark accompaniment of bass, mandolin and didjeridu, that shines the brightest. If the thought of a jolly Irish jig sends you hotfoot to the nearest Ray Conniff collection -- hold fast. This is ancient music with the power to move both...
  • A Coughing Cow, Too Many Bears

    When it comes to figuring out the literary taste of children, not even Samuel Johnson got it right. ""Babies do not want to hear about babies,'' he declared. ""They like to be told about giants and castles.'' Kids do crave tales of castles and giants. But babies, as any parent could have told the childless Johnson, do too love hearing about and looking at pictures of other babies. After that, it's hard to generalize. One thing we know: kids subscribe to no canon. How many grandmothers have hauled out ""A Child's Garden of Verses,'' only to find themselves reading to a suddenly empty room? Kids judge books by very personal, often inscrutable standards. Take a book like Will Goes to the Post Office (R&S Books. $13), the third in a series by Olof and Lena Landstrom that began with ""Will's New Cap'' and ""Will Gets a Haircut.'' Nothing much happens in these simply drawn, lightly narrated stories. The titles don't sum up the plots; they are the plots. Still, a 3-year-old boy of our...
  • Ordinary People

    The main characters in Alice Munro's mesmerizing stories, mostly women, are an unprepossessing lot: librarians, eccentric spinsters, seamstresses, all of them denizens of small, drab, Canadian towns. But invariably, Munro pulls a switch, something like that old movie cliche where the mousy heroine removes her glasses, undoes her hair and reveals herself a beauty. In Munro's case, however, the revelation always amounts to more than a matter of looks. And more than just the simple-minded platitude that all people are interesting if only you take the time to get to know them. Munro's women can be dull. But they are rarely passive and never uninteresting. Chafing against repressive, imprisoning circumstances, they manage to kindle unpredictable outcomes that resonate with a peculiar yet satisfying rightness. ...
  • Hot Zones, Cold Chills

    Richard Preston may be no Stephen King, but he sure knows how to scare people. And Preston, a writer for The New Yorker, does it without making anything up. Anyone who reads even a couple of pages of The Hot Zone (400 pages. Random House. $23) will recognize a pro at work. Preston knows just the right tone to use: rational, dispassionate, sort of Claude-Rains-meets-National-Geographic. "So often in a case like this," he deadpans at the outset of his tale, "it's hard to pin down the details. The doctors remember the clinical signs, because no one who has ever seen the effects of a Biosafety Level 4 hot agent on a human being can forget them, but the effects pile up, one after the other, until they obliterate the person beneath them." ...
  • Pizza At Three O'clock

    It is axiomatic among mystery writers, no less than real-estate agents, that "location, location, location" are the three most important words in English. To the best crime writers, a sense of place is every bit as crucial as who killed Col. Mustard in the pantry with a candlestick. No one has ever caught the corrupt beauty of Los Angeles better than Raymond Chandler, and Rex Stout's wry evocation of Manhattan remains vivid two decades af-ter his death. But, as two new mysteries prove in very different ways, bringing a place to life in print is a tough trick. ...
  • Sense and Sensibility

    The elegant mysteries of the British author Peter Dickinson usually come equipped with a gimmick. In _B_The Yellow Room Conspiracy _b_(261 pages. Mysterious Press. $18.95), he marries the travails of a family uncannily resembling the Mitfords to a scandal that echoes the Profumo affair. Toss in some house envy right out of "Howards End," and you've got a plot that sounds unbearably borrowed. It is a measure of Dickinson's artistry that by the end of the first chapter you're no longer bothered by this.Two aging lovers, Lucy and Paul, narrate the story in alternating chapters. Each begins with the assumption that the other one murdered Gerry Grantworth years before. Grantworth was Lucy's old flame and Paul's old pal, but as each adds bits to the tale, the murder victim emerges as a stranger to them both. As they unravel his character, they edge ever closer to the identity of his murderer. As always, Dickinson's chief interest is not crime but character. Lucy Vereker and her four...
  • House Rockers

    FOR 26 YEARS, NRBQ'S performances have always had a "what's wrong with this picture" quality. The New Rhythm and Blues Quartet-known simply as "the Q" to its fans-specializes in hummable, danceable songs about falling in love and cruising with the top down. But they like to pull the rug out from under your expectations. They might slip in a Duke Ellington tune or a Chipmunks song. Or it might be one of their own numbers with nutty lyrics like "Howard Johnson's Got His Ho-Jo Workin'." Idiosyncratic pop at its best, NRBQ's music suggests what might happen if Huck Finn and Bugs Bunny strapped on Stratocasters. Not long ago at the Bottom Line in New York City, things hit the surreal maximum when the band charged into its anthemic tribute to "Girl Scout Cookies" from its new album, "Message From the Mess Age." Without missing a beat, the musicians began gleefully throwing those cookies into the audience. Literally and figuratively, the crowd ate it up. ...
  • The Fallout Of The Burnout

    Kurt Cobain's body was discovered at his Seattle home, about 5,000 people gathered under a slate-gray Seattle sky for a candlelight vigil. The distraught crowd filled the air with profane chants, burned their flannel shirts and fought with police. They also listened to a tape made by Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, in which she read from his suicide note: "I haven't felt the excitement in listening to as well as creating music ... for so many years now ... I don't have the passion any more. So remember, it's better to burn out than fade away." Love punctuated her reading with sobbing, recrimination and obscenities, exclaiming, "He's such an asshole. I want all of you to say 'asshole' really loud." She got what she asked for. ...
  • Maybe The Kangaroo Did It

    NOBODY WROTE BETTER DETECTIVE stories than Raymond Chandler or better science fiction than Philip K. Dick. Chandler captured midcentury California in prose as gaudy as it was precise: his screwhall similes clipped the corner of the plate every time. Dick was Chandler's dark twin, a man who couldn't write his way out of a wet paper sack. Yet his dystopian sci-fi, which saw the future as just a crummier version of the present, a carbon of a carbon of a carbon, nicely complements Chandler's vision of California as an ersatz Eden. ...
  • Speaking Of The Devil

    PAUL INGRAM'S DAUGHTERS ARE EVERY parent's worst nightmare. Ericka and Julie were obedient, responsible girls and faithful to their family's fundamentalist religion. Julie had won the state championship in the Future Homemakers of America contest two years in a row. Then, in the fall of 1988, when Ericka was 22 and Julie 18, both daughters suddenly moved out of their parents' house in Olympia, Wash. Several weeks later, they told their mother and the authorities that their father had been sexually molesting them for years. Before long they were embellishing their accusations with descriptions of Satan worship that included gang rape and the slaughter of babies. Several of the men they identified as members of the cult worked in the Thurston County Sheriff's department, where Paul Ingram was a deputy. But the most frightening thing about the case was that without a shred of corroborating evidence, Ericka and Julie convinced everyone-including their father-that their story was true.In...
  • The New Publishers' Row

    IN THE WORLD OF BOOK PUBLISHING, Richard Snyder is known as a pugnacious businessman who's never at a loss for words. So it's surprising to find the chairman of Paramount Publishing peevish and defensive. "Why should the book business be inefficient?" he asked in an interview with NEWSWEEK. "Why is that the glorification of literature?" ...
  • The Ghost Writer At Home On The Range

    THE WIND HAD BECOME EVEN MORE SEVERE, AND HE HAD THE SICKENING SENSE THAT HE, NOT HIS HAT, WAS ABOUT TO BLOW AWAY. THERE WASN'T A TREE IN SIGHT THAT HE COULD SEE: JUST ENDLESS PLAIN. UNLESS HE COULD ROLL UP AGAINST A WAGON WHEEL, AS HIS HAT HAD, THERE WOULD BE NOTHING TO STOP HIM FOR DAYS, IF HE BLEW AWAY. HE KNEW IT WAS AN ABSURD FEELING: GROWN MEN, ESPECIALLY HEAVY MEN SUCH AS HIMSELF, DIDN'T JUST BLOW AWAY. YET THE FEELING PERSISTED, AND EVERY TIME HE HAPPENED TO GLANCE ACROSS THE STREET AND SEE NOTHING--NOTHING AT ALL EXCEPT GRASS AND SKY--THE FEELING GOT WORSE. ...
  • The Blues In High Cotton

    The new Cambridge, Mass., nightclub House of Blues is a juke joint wanna-be. Promoting--you might say enshrining--live blues music, this latest brainchild of Isaac Tigrett, mastermind of the Hard Rock Cafes, makes a fetish out of funkiness. Its plain wooden walls are covered with Mississippi Delta folk art; its ceilings wear graffiti. And while the place has been open only since last November, someone has scuffed the paint off the chairs to make them look old. ...
  • Fabien Baron's Grand Designs

    The topless woman in the leather bodysuit was whipping the man next to her, but almost nobody paid attention. It was last month's party for Madonna's "Sex" book, and the crowd, like a fist, crushed in on the event's motley trinity: Madonna, photographer Steven Meisel and art director Fabien Baron. ...
  • 'The Highway That's The Best'

    When I first heard about the thousands of fervent Route 66 enthusiasts, I wanted to like them, but I had my doubts. It wasn't a question of their judgment. Route 66 is America's most famous and most fabled highway, hands down. It would be almost unpatriotic not to like it. No, the problem is that, strictly speaking, Route 66 no longer exists. ...
  • Spin Doctor

    Genius. By James Gleick. 532 pages. Pantheon. $27.50. Consider the problem: You're reading James Gleick's biography of Richard Feynman (1918-1988), a great scientist who helped chart the course of modern theoretical physics, was one of the builders of the atomic bomb during World War II and four decades later proved the most clearsighted member of the team investigating the Challenger space-shuttle explosion. He was a gifted teacher, a great talker and legendary for his many extracurricular activities, which ranged from compulsive womanizing to bongo playing to safecracking (a tension-relieving diversion at Los Alamos). Moreover, the story is being told by the author of "Chaos," a man famous for his ability to broker the intricacies of science to the general public. So, all the elements that should constitute a fascinating equation are present. And yet, some crucial element is missing. ...
  • Anatomy Of A Fire

    Norman Maclean got many good reviews for "A River Runs Through It," but none pleased him more than the letters he got from fishermen. "There's no bastards in the world who like to argue more than fishermen," he once said, "and not one of them corrected me on anything. That is my idea of a good review." ...
  • Please, Mr. Postman

    Nick Bantock got the inspiration for the best-selling Griffin & Sabine (Chronicle. $16.95) four years ago, after a bout of postal envy. One day, after withdrawing his mail from his post-office box, the Vancouver artist was grumbling over the usual assortment of bills and circulars when a man nearby extracted from his box a "really nice looking letter from overseas." Walking home, Bantock found himself craving exotic mail. "Then it occurred to me, if you want a letter, write it yourself." ...
  • Just Too Good To Be True

    Michael Her Many Horses remembers the first time he doubted Chief Seattle's famous speech about caring for the planet. It was a TV program about the Northwest rain forest. The narrator quoted the 19th-century Suquamish Indian's plea for living in harmony with nature. "My reaction was that here's a guy that understood what the environment could provide for his people," recalls Her Many Horses, executive director of the Oglala Sioux tribe on the Pine Ridge (S.D.) Reservation. But somehow the chief's words didn't ring true. "It made me feel good, but it seemed too perfect." ...
  • Who Has What It Takes To Be A Hero?

    Michael Lesy grew up Jewish in a Protestant prep school where compulsory chapel tortured the freshly bar mitzvahed adolescent with questions of his own blasphemy. Even hymns posed problems. Was lip syncing enough to keep him out of hell? Guilt ridden, he came alive to the lyrics of "Once to Every Man and Nation." Here was his challenge: would he ever, at the crucial moment, choose the right? Did he have what it took to be a hero? Lesy is now in his 40s, but those chapel-forged questions linger on, as he admits in "Rescues: The Lives of Heroes" (Farrar Straus Giroux. $18.95), a meditation on heroism's guises and a search for its sources. ...
  • Down And Out In The City Of Angels

    The notion of a fictional black detective in '40s Los Angeles sounds gimmicky, but on the first page of his first novel Walter Mosley proves he has the talent to make this idea work. Audaciously, he steals the opening of Raymond Chandler's "Farewell My Lovely"--where white detective Philip Marlowe visits a black bar--rewrites it from the point of view of a black customer, and turns a familiar world inside out.Mosley has a lot of fun upending our preconceptions. His hero, Ezekial (Easy) Rawlins, doesn't set out to be a detective. He's just a laid-off aircraft factory worker looking to make his mortgage payment by hunting for a missing white woman known to frequent black nightclubs. But by the end of the story, he's been beaten by cops, shot at by gangsters and lied to by everyone from a mayoral candidate to the eponymous Daphne Monet--and he loves the work enough to make a career of it."Nobody knew what I was up to and that made me sort of invisible," Rawlins explains. "People...

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