An often gripping account of a tempestuous half-century.

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Through the Eyes of an Immigrant

A refugee from the Soviet Union settles in the United States and hustles to make a life there in this memoir.

In 1949, after fleeing Ukraine and attending a university in Germany, Konstantin (A Red Boyhood—Growing Up Under Stalin, 2008) landed in Boston. He had only $22 to his name, warily hidden in the lining of his pants, and the support of his sponsor, the New York Association for New Americans. It wasn’t easy for him to find work as a mechanical engineer, so he barely made ends meet by leapfrogging from one menial job to another. He finally found more promising employment in Ohio and was eventually able, in 1969 at the age of 40, to start his own business with his brother, Bill. Along the way, he fell in love with a woman named Rosaria Puccio, and they married and had children. The author negotiated their religious differences—he’s decidedly secular and she was raised Catholic—with the help of the Ethical Culture Society, a humanist philosophical group that emphasizes the shared moral ground of the world’s major theologies. Konstantin, an avid reader and lifelong student, later earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in industrial management. In this book, he constantly situates his own personal experience in the context of geopolitical affairs, which largely meant the dramatic unfolding of the Cold War. He also includes astute discussions of American politics, never shying away from analysis of major political figures, such as presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, or watershed events, such as the Bay of Pigs and Watergate. One recurrent theme is his exasperation with Western credulity: “I was still haunted by the question of why so many Americans and European intellectuals…still believed the Soviet propaganda.” This is the second installment of the author’s memoirs, and as in many autobiographies, there’s plenty of space devoted to quotidian affairs—the details of vacations, personal financial matters, and the like. These discussions will largely interest those who know the author personally, particularly his family members. However, his discussions of communism’s unraveling, and of its intellectual attraction to Westerners, provide a stirring testimony of real, though sometimes-ignored, global atrocities. It establishes Konstantin as an extraordinary moral witness who faithfully recorded depredations that man visited upon his fellow man in the name of ideology.

An often gripping account of a tempestuous half-century.

Pub Date: April 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944785-03-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Konstantin Memoirs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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