More than half a century ago, long before Apple was a glint in anyone’s eye, the reigning champion of innovation in American business was Bell Labs, an arm of the original AT&T. Its staff of youthful scientists and engineers were assigned, notes our business columnist Michael Hiltzik in this Sunday's Arts & Books section, “to go where their intellects took them, not especially concerned about serving the corporate bottom line, picking up cartloads of Nobel Prizes along the way.” Much of this image, Hiltzik writes in his review of Jon Gertner's “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation,” was more of a public relations invention than a reality. “The Idea Factory” explores this and more, Hiltzik says (though not without some issues).
James Brown had issues too, but, oh my, could he sing. He was, as staff writer Steve Zeitchik notes in his review of “The One: The Life and Music of James Brown,” “demanding, egotistical and prone to pulling a gun on those who disagreed with him.” All that aside, Brown’s biographer, R.J. Smith, offers a complete look at the singer’s life and concludes that he was a key social figure whose life intersected with significant racial trends.
Filed under the loose category of “lost” novels, Jack Kerouac’s early work “The Sea Is My Brother” is finally being published in its entirety, by Da Capo Press. It is, reports Times Book Critic David L. Ulin, not “entirely unreadable.” And while that may be faint praise, it does offer an interesting departure point for Ulin’s thoughtful larger question: “How did such a mannered young writer, self-indulgent and often woefully pretentious, become the purveyor of his own uniquely American idiom, jazz-infected, improvisational, a spontaneous bop prosody?” Ulin explores that issue and reflects on the scope of Kerouac’s early work, his “juvenilia,” on Sunday.
More after the jump