LIFE WITHOUT ARMOUR

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

One of England's preeminent (and most prolific) postWW II novelists recounts his early life in this reserved but affecting memoir. For most writers, their vocation comes early and undoubtedly. Not so with Sillitoe (Out of the Whirlpool, 1988, etc.): Everything in his childhood seemed to weigh against writing. Born in Depression-era Nottingham to a destitute working-class family (think D.H. Lawrence, but darker still), he could expect little from life beyond a job on a local assembly line. He failed several high school entrance exams, and at the age of 14 he was bright and curious, an avid reader, but with no particular drive or ambition. However, he did have an inchoate urge to see the world. This led him to the RAF and service in Malaysia as a wireless operator. Though he enjoyed the air force, he chose not to reenlist and was all set to muster out and continue drifting when he was diagnosed with that most literary of diseases, tuberculosis. Recovering in the hospital, he suddenly and somehow found his calling and began devouring all the great books he'd missed . . . and began to write. Upon his discharge, he moved to Spain and devoted himself full-time to literature. Eight years and four unpublished novels later, he finally found success as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner were published to staggering acclaim. While all this is expertly narrated and makes abundantly clear the autobiographical roots of much of Sillitoe's work, the least satisfying element of this memoir is, paradoxically, Sillitoe himself. Perhaps it is his British reserve, but he allows us few glimpses of how the events of his life have adhered to his soul, so that, as a character, he seems flat and underrealized. Such reticence aside, this is a fine and memorable work, a testament to the powers of literature to reshape a life.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1996

ISBN: 0-00-255570-0

Page Count: 278

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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