A journey through the lives of young Eastern European Jews that’s not to be missed.

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Somehow I Am Different

NARRATIVES OF SEARCHING AND BELONGING IN JEWISH BUDAPEST

Petersel’s debut explores the revitalization of the Hungarian Jewish community in 21 oral histories of millennial Jews.

Young Hungarians in cafes, synagogues, festivals, and conferences tell of their Jewish religious and cultural identities in this work. They include an Orthodox rabbi, a chef, a rapper, children of Holocaust survivors, a non-Jew with an anti-Semitic past considering conversion, and others, and their diverse personal and work histories result in multifaceted tales. Each person’s story demonstrates his or her winding path to embracing Judaism, whether it be in a historical context or in present-day Hungary. Some interviewees see a primary need to educate people about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism; others want to dispel images of Jews as victims and let the world know about the currently thriving Hungarian Jewish culture. Asuzsanna Fritz, who was unaware that she was Jewish until she was 16, explains, “we decided that we could create a positive Jewish identification. We created an open door and said whoever wants to come, we are happy to receive you.” Such visions of flourishing communities are tempered, though, by the recent rise of the right wing; the country is “becoming more and more nationalistic and conservative…more and more excluding toward minorities,” says one young adult. “The question is: Do I want to live in a country where the main tendency and the main values are not what I believe in?...I don’t have a clear answer for that.” With deft prose, Petersel seamlessly weaves together Jewish voices with evocative descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of her Hungarian surroundings. Her depictions of food, for example, induce pangs of hunger: “spicy mushrooms ignited my palate and my sinuses. Hints of sharp cheese mixed with the comfort of potatoes in the French stew.” An epilogue features excerpts of Petersel’s own journal and a contributed essay by Ákos Keller-Alánt on Hungary’s contemporary history, politics, and economy, which adds an important component to the work. Although the book focuses on Hungarian Jewish life, its historical context, provocative questions about identity and culture, and captivating writing will engage and educate a very broad audience.

A journey through the lives of young Eastern European Jews that’s not to be missed.

Pub Date: March 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-58411-8

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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