On Fandom: Obsession in Popular Culture | Arts & Humanities

This sociological and pop culture studies text also sheds light on fandom in general; most readers will appreciate this analysis and celebration of boy bands

Hinds, Michael & Jonathan Silverman. Johnny Cash International: How and Why Fans Love the Man in Black. Univ. of Iowa. Jun. 2020. 270p. ISBN 9781609387013. pap. $27.50. MUSIC
With this academic yet accessible book, Hinds (English, Dublin City Univ.; coeditor, Rebound: The American Poetry Book) and Silverman (English, Univ. of Massachusetts Lowell; Nine Choices: Johnny Cash and American Culture) present a study of international fans of singer Johnny Cash. They explore the evolution of Cash fandom, from printed fan newsletters during the pre-internet years to current online communities, including the comments sections of YouTube videos. Together, these areas form an “infosphere” of fandom that transcends geography, class, and background. The authors study fans in Ireland, Norway, and Portugal; accompany those who travel to the United States to perform Cash’s music and visit sites related to him; and consider how the fans’ stories and devotion to Cash reflect on both his music and his status as an iconic American archetype. VERDICT While looking at Johnny Cash fandom specifically, this sociological and pop culture studies text also sheds light on fandom in general.—James Collins, Morristown–Morris Twp. P.L., NJ


Sherman, Maria. Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS. Black Dog & Leventhal. Jul. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9780762468911. pap. $24.99. MUSIC
At first glance, with its cartoony illustrations and pulpy feel, this book looks more like a fan magazine a smitten tween might buy to memorize details about her favorite boy band member—or bias, as the K-Pop kids say. But don’t be fooled by the design—the F-bomb in the book’s second sentence makes it clear that this isn’t targeted at the YA crowd. Rather, it’s a witty, irreverent, but almost scholarly primer on all things boy band. Music writer and cultural critic Sherman includes band profiles and member biographies, fashion and slang guides, and time lines and histories tracing boy bands all the way back to composer Frantz Liszt in the mid-19th century; other artists covered include Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Osmonds, New Edition, and the Backstreet Boys. This wry, incisive work notes that boy bands are often dismissed, loathed and—not without reason—seen as having been artificially manufactured by an exploitative entertainment industry. Readers are challenged to admit these realities, then empowered not to care, and, finally, urged to continue loving these groups anyway. VERDICT Most readers will appreciate this analysis and celebration of boy bands.—­Jeffrey ­Hastings, Howell ­Carnegie Dist. Lib, Howell, MI

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