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If It Ain't Got That Swing

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If It Ain't Got That Swing
If It Ain't Got That Swing
AuthorMark Gauvreau Judge
CountryUnited States
SubjectSwing music
GenreAmerican culture
PublisherSpence Publishing Company
Media typeHardcover
LC Class00-26706
Preceded byWasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk (1997) 
Followed byDamn Senators (2003) 

Download this book If It Ain't Got That Swing or buy it on amazon

If It Ain't Got That Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-Up Culture is a 2000 non-fiction book about swing music and changes in American culture, written by Mark Gauvreau Judge.[1][2] Judge had previously written a memoir about his alcoholism titled Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk.[6][7] If It Ain't Got That Swing chronicles the author's experimentation with swing dancing lessons, and his reluctance to do so due to his prior usage of alcohol as a way to relax himself in large social situations.[3]

Judge ascribes the 1996 film Swingers and a 1998 Gap Inc. commercial with youths dancing to the Lindy Hop as evidentiary of the swing revival.[3] Judge criticizes the American culture of the 1960s and rock and roll, as forms of adolescence society in the United States.[2][1] The book documents the author's shift from liberalism to support of right-wing politics.[1][2]

If It Ain't Got That Swing received negative book reviews from Library Journal,[2] Kirkus Reviews,[1] The Wall Street Journal,[4] and Reason.[3] Library Journal criticized the book's writing style and called it a "sophomoric, opinionated diatribe".[2] Kirkus Reviews called it a "diatribe" and wrote that it failed due to "single-mindedness and humorlessness".[1] The Wall Street Journal called Judge's argumentation "persuasive" but "incomplete", and pointed out inconsistencies in the book.[4] Writing for Reason, Jesse Walker also found factual errors in Judge's work.[3]

Contents summary[edit]

If It Ain't Got That Swing chronicles the author's transition from support of liberalism towards right-wing politics.[1][2] Judge says he was influenced by the writings of Christopher Lasch, especially his work The Culture of Narcissism.[1][2] The author's shift from left-wing politics to conservatism was additionally motivated by his initial foray into swing dancing.[1][2] Judge examines the contemporary period of swing revival.[8]

The author recounts what he views as a subculture appreciative of rock and roll within American society which is devoid of any real meaning.[2] Judge argues that this rock and roll culture is representative of an adolescent mentality.[9] He criticizes changes which took place in the United States during the 1960s and praises cotillions as a way to return to an earlier period within American society.[5]

Judge writes that he himself took up swing dancing in the locality of Washington, D.C. in 1995.[3] He describes for the reader the nervousness he felt while entering his first swing dance lesson, because he had previously relied upon alcoholic beverages as a way to make himself feel more comfortable in public gatherings.[3] He charts the swing revival to two factors: the 1996 film Swingers, and a 1998 advertisement with youths performing the Lindy Hop while promoting Gap Inc. clothing.[3]

Judge pines for a culture in the United States reminiscent of more conservative ideology.[2] Judge cites the adultery of Bill Clinton as evidence of a breakdown in contemporary societal values.[2] He criticizes feminism and instead embraces a culture of chivalry.[2] The author puts forth an argument that liberalism is hypocritical.[2] Judge asserts that culture within the United States lacks organization, freedom, and connectedness.[1] He argues that these qualities can be found in swing revival.[1]

Composition and publication[edit]

Prior to writing If It Ain't Got That Swing, Judge had worked as a journalist in his early twenties.[10] Before publishing If It Ain't Got That Swing, Judge had written Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk (1997).[6][10][7] If It Ain't Got That Swing was first published in hardcover format in 2000, by Spence Publishing Company.[11][12] An eBook was published by the same publisher in the same year.[13] The author was interviewed on the NPR program Talk of the Nation in August 2000 about his book, and said that the 1996 film Swingers represented a resurgence of swing culture in the United States.[14] By February 2001, Judge's book had become a bestseller in the United States.[9] Judge subsequently published other books including Damn Senators,[15][16] God and Man at Georgetown Prep (2005),[17][18] and A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock 'n' Roll (2010).[19][20]

Critical reception[edit]

If It Ain't Got That Swing received a negative book review from Library Journal, which observed the author advocated a society in the United States represented by Leave It To Beaver.[2] The book review described the author's writing style as "meandering pages".[2] The review concluded, "Displaying little knowledge or understanding of past or current American culture, Judge presents a sophomoric, opinionated diatribe that offers little to any reader."[2]

Kirkus Reviews published a critical book review of If It Ain't Got That Swing, commenting that the author's writing style "has a tone of moral penitence and self-righteousness."[1] Kirkus Reviews concluded, "In the end, his diatribe comes to resemble a rant."[1] The book review characterized Judge's work as, "Ambitious pop-cult criticism that fails because of its single-mindedness and humorlessness."[1]

Judge's work garnered a book review from The Wall Street Journal, which wrote of the author's argument that swing dancing could improve American culture: "There is much that is persuasive in this argument, but it is incomplete."[4] The review pointed out factual errors in Judge's writing, such as that dancing in public was curtailed after a U.S. tax on nightclubs in 1944.[4] The Wall Street Journal pointed out that Judge's view of swing dancing as a way to improve civil discourse in American culture, led him to falsely conflate early swing dancing with a completely different later period of swing dancing culture.[4] The Washington Post recommended the book, and classed it among others on the topic including Dance of Days, Our Band Could Be Your Life, and D.C. Hand Dance.[8]

Jesse Walker wrote a book review of If It Ain't Got That Swing, in an article for Reason.[3] Walker wrote that Judge, "gets the genealogy of neo-swing wrong, and that he does so precisely because he's trying to reduce a complex phenomenon to a simple explanation."[3] Walker criticized Judge's "distorted chronology" about the evolution of the swing revival, citing factual inaccuracies in the presentation of swing dance history in the book.[3] He said that the swing revival "obviously predated" the Gap Inc. commercial.[3] He argued that Judge wrote from a stance of narcissism.[3] The Reason book review concluded, "His new book's subtitle may invoke 'grown-up culture,' but his prose betrays him: He writes like he's going through a stage."[3]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 "Book Review: If It Ain't Got That Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-Up Culture", Kirkus Reviews, Kirkus Associates, LP, May 15, 2000, retrieved September 19, 2018
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 Szatmary, Dave (2000), "Book Review: If It Ain't Got That Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-Up Culture", Library Journal, Reed Business Information
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 Walker, Jesse (July 2001), "Tales of a Gen X Swinger; A music critic's juvenile cultural politics", Reason, retrieved September 19, 2018
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Vitullo-Martin, Julia (July 24, 2000), "Bookshelf: Let's Face the Music...and Dance", The Wall Street Journal, p. A24 – via ProQuest
  5. 5.0 5.1 Eisner, Jane (September 18, 2000), "Popularity of cotillions signals resurgence of adult culture", The Philadelphia Inquirer – via InfoTrac |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Maas, Peter (September 22, 2018), "Mark Judge's memoir about Brett Kavanaugh's high school portrays a culture of aggression and excessive drinking", The Intercept, retrieved September 22, 2018
  7. 7.0 7.1 Newman, Michael (June 29, 1997), "Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk. By Mark Gauvreau Judge. Hazelden.", The New York Times, p. BR20, retrieved September 19, 2018
  8. 8.0 8.1 Brace, Eric (December 28, 2001), "Now That I Think About 2001. . .", The Washington Post, p. 5 – via ProQuest
  9. 9.0 9.1 Norman, Jean (February 10, 2001), "All grown up", The Australian Magazine, Weekend Australian, p. 41 – via NewsBank, In the United States, new bestsellers include - If It Ain't Got That Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-up Culture, by Mark Gauvreau Judge. It argues that the pre-babyboomer generations were happy to appear suave and adult, a culture superseded by the teenager sensibility of rock`n'roll.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Barr, Elizabeth (June 29, 1997), "A Pampered Boy's Life, As Seen Through a Buzz (book review)", The Buffalo News, p. G7 – via NewsBank
  11. Judge, Mark Gauvreau (2000), If It Ain't Got That Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-Up Culture, Spence Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1890626242
  12. "If It Ain't Got That Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-Up Culture", WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, 2000, OCLC 43728944, retrieved September 25, 2018
  13. "If It Ain't Got That Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-Up Culture", WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, 2000, OCLC 891748389, retrieved September 25, 2018
  14. Krasny, Michael (August 8, 2000), "Analysis: Youth trend of yearning for the more innocent days of the 1940s and 1950s", Talk of the Nation, NPR
  15. "Taste -- Review & Outlook: A Capital Idea", The Wall Street Journal, p. W19, July 18, 2003 – via ProQuest
  16. Hansen, Liane (September 5, 2004), "Interview: Michael Kranish talks about his summer reading picks", Weekend Edition, NPR – via NewsBank, My favorite part of 'Damn Senators' was learning who Joe Judge was, a person who I really hadn't heard of.
  17. Selk, Avi (September 17, 2018), "What the man accused of being part of Kavanaugh's alleged sexual assault had to say about women's sexuality", The Washington Post, retrieved September 18, 2018
  18. Duin, Julia (April 19, 2006), "Prep school concedes to abuse charge", The Washington Times, p. B3 – via InfoTrac
  19. Lott, Jeremy (November 9, 2010), "Book Review: Call for a Catholic sexual counterrevolution", The Washington Times, p. B4, retrieved September 19, 2018
  20. Judge, Mark (2010). A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock 'n' Roll. Doubleday Religion. ISBN 978-0385519205.

Further reading[edit]

  • Judge, Mark Gauvreau (February 12, 2001), "Ken Burns ain't got that swing", Human Events, 57 (6), p. S22 – via ProQuest

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