An insightful addition to the Columbia Global Reports roster.




A critical appreciation of “world literature,” highlighting works that combine specifics of locality with global reach.

Like “world music,” the very notion of world literature has become problematic, weighted with notions of cultural imperialism, dilution, elitism, and what Kirsch (Jewish Studies/Columbia Univ.; The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature, 2016) terms “the original sin of translation itself.” Does simple translate better than complexity? Do novels that appeal to the lowest common denominator stand a better chance of crossing borders than ones that are unique to the culture that spawned them? Is the whole issue “just another way of asking whether a meaningfully global consciousness can exist”? A poet and critic, the author finds plenty of literary value in novels that have found a readership well beyond the author’s homeland. He matches six of the books that he surveys into pairs, and some of these pairings can initially seem arbitrary. Sure, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island might both be categorized as “dystopian,” but even Kirsch admits that “writers more different than Atwood and Houllebecq can hardly be imagined—the Canadian feminist and the French misogynist,” although he makes a case for some sort of shared moral vision and social criticism. Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and Roberto Bolaño's 2666 are both epic, doorstop volumes with numbers in their titles, though the critical receptions to the two were very different. Kirsch is shrewd on what he terms “a new genre of English-language fiction…call it migrant literature,” which is less about an immigrant’s arrival than a transitional passage, one that reinforces the notion of globalization in novels whose cultural roots are tougher to untangle. The author finishes with the popular and critical triumph of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, which are so personal and specific to Naples yet so universal in theme.

An insightful addition to the Columbia Global Reports roster.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9977229-0-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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