A work that will be best enjoyed by readers eager to read slowly and think deeply.


A collection of the author’s essays gathered from his last four decades of ruminating about light and dark, shadow and substance, photographs and films.

Trachtenberg (Emeritus, English and American Studies/Yale Univ.; Shades of Hiawatha: Staging Indians, Making Americans: 1880-1930, 2004, not reviewed) has long focused on the issue of images—still, moving—and on their history and significance. In these 19 pieces (most previously published), the author shows the wide range of his interest and knowledge. The initial two essays deal with the daguerreotype; others explore the work of Hawthorne, Twain, Crane, Whitman, Alger; others concern Louis Sullivan’s architecture, Lewis Mumford’s historiography, the Brooklyn Bridge; others examine the work of photographers Walker Evans, W. Eugene Smith and Wright Morris. And there is a very strong essay about the role of the city in film noir. Trachtenberg’s audience, unsurprisingly, has a marked effect on his diction. Pieces he wrote for scholarly journals can be dense, slow-moving. Of Crane, for example, he writes, “By projecting in the contrasted points of view a dialectic of felt values, Crane forces the reader to free his or her own point of view from any limiting perspective.” But throughout, Trachtenberg urges us to think about the “truth” or the “reality” that a photograph presents, about the agenda of the photographer, about the narrative that the photograph—or group of photographs—tells. He urges us, too, to consider the evolving image of the city offered by our writers and photographers. Some of his earlier pieces have not aged well. His 1970 essay on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for example, seems almost quaint. He does recognize the power and prescience of Poe’s 1840 story “The Man of the Crowd,” and he discusses it in several essays.

A work that will be best enjoyed by readers eager to read slowly and think deeply.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8090-4297-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2006

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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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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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