Academic journal article Notes

Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein

Academic journal article Notes

Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein

Article excerpt

Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein. By Jonathan Cott. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. [183 p. ISBN 9780199858446. $24.95.] Illustrations, bibliography, index.

Over the course of a career that spanned nearly five decades, Leonard Bernstein was the subject of hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews. Many of these interviews are readily available in (now digitized) print media such as newspapers, general interest periodicals, and music magazines. Additionally, The Leonard Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress holds transcripts of several film and television interviews, and the collection is open to researchers and the general public (http://memory.loc.gov/ ammem/collections/bernstein/, accessed 21 March 2014). If interviews of Bernstein are so voluminous and easy to obtain, readers may ask what justifies the publication of the book-length Dinner with Lenny, especially since it is based on previously-released material. The most obvious answer to this question is the fact that it was Bernstein's last extended interview. It is appealing to contemplate the image of the venerable musician dispensing sage wisdom in the twilight of his life. That this interview was intended for a different readership than most Bernstein question-and-answer sessions also leaps immediately to mind, as does the interview's value as a primary historical source. Finally, Bernstein's schedule and publications' space limitations often precluded lengthier conversations of the type included in this book.

In November 1989, Rolling Stone journalist Jonathan Cott was granted an interview with Leonard Bernstein after vetting by Bernstein's assistants. This interview, which took place at Bernstein's home in Fairfield, Connecticut, was originally published in Rolling Stone no. 592 (29 November 1990), with excerpts also appearing in Rolling Slone no. 641 (15 October 1992). Both are available via trial subscription from the Rolling Stone Web site and in libraries. Dinner with Lenny is basically an extended version of the published Rolling Stone interview, with the addition of a "Prelude" and a "Postlude." The "Prelude" features a biographical synopsis of Bernstein's life and describes how Cott was able to get the interview, while the "Postlude" recounts Cott's post-interview contact with Bernstein and summarizes the last year of the maestro's life. The interview itself takes up 122 of the book's 183 pages, and includes a good deal of material left out of the 1990 piece. As Cott notes, Rolling Stone allotted 8,000 words for the original publication, but their twelve-hour conversation encompassed more than four times that (p. …

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