ROAD SCHOLAR

COAST TO COAST LATE IN THE CENTURY

Romanian-born poet, professor (English/LSU), and NPR commentator Codrescu (The Hole in the Flag, 1991, etc.) drives from East Coast to West, nosing into the sort of lovably wacky Americana that's made the comparable dispatches of fellow wheelman/writer Charles Kuralt so popular. One big difference between Codrescu and Kuralt, though, is that Kuralt responds to American eccentricity with levelheaded wisdom and humor, while Codrescu appears every bit as odd as his subjects. The first step in his odyssey, for instance, is learning how to drive: The 40-ish author never has mastered the skill—and not for want of trying: ``I tried to learn...The third time...I drove right into [a] stream. I had gotten so confident I forgot to steer.'' Nevertheless, Codrescu tries again, taking driver's ed in his adopted hometown of New Orleans—and this time he succeeds, and decides to buy a Cadillac. But the new models look like ``cold mashed potatoes,'' so he purchases a 1968 red Caddie convertible. With camera crew in tow (his trip is to be filmed for theatrical release), he heads to N.Y.C., where he receives Allen Ginsberg's ``blessing'' and begins his journey west. Along his erratic way, he pays homage at Walt Whitman's grave; explores a crime-ravaged Detroit and a still-vital Chicago, where he visits a pig- slaughterhouse; races down to Arizona and up to Las Vegas (``the Kingdom of If''); and winds up in San Francisco. Throughout, he takes special interest in sociospiritual phenomena (religious communes; a Sikh village in New Mexico; rebirthing and past-life regression, both of which he undertakes with zest, etc.), emphasizing that ``paradoxically, the most materialistic country in the world is also the most spiritual.'' Witty, smart, and unpredictable. But America is more than its fringe, and Codrescu, with his yen for the bohemian and the bizarre, never quite uncovers the land's expansive, mainstream heart. (Seventy-four b&w photographs—some seen)

Pub Date: April 16, 1993

ISBN: 1-56282-878-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1993

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

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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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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