Fine bedside reading, and a better-than-average textbook for composition students.

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THE PUSHCART BOOK OF ESSAYS

A rewarding collection from the annual Pushcart Prize anthology series, now numbering 25 volumes.

Founded by editor Bill Henderson in the mid-1970s, the Pushcart Prize honored what he considered to be the best offerings from the country’s small presses and literary journals. The period, writes volume editor Brandt, corresponds with “a remarkable rebirth of both the art and the prestige of the essay,” and this gathering speaks very ably indeed to the power of a well-crafted piece of nonfiction to speak volumes in a short space. It begins, strangely, with one of the few clunkers, a diffuse piece on street life on the Mexican border that is long on idiom and local color but short on point; from there, however, the book quickly gathers steam. Brandt’s selections are nicely balanced, mixing work by men and women, by academics and nonacademics, by established and beginning writers; many of the contributions, including both personal and critical pieces, have gone on to appear in other anthologies and collections of the individual authors’ works. Among the many highlights are Leslie Fiedler’s nicely peevish essay “Literature and Lucre,” about just that; Clark Blaise’s longish reflection on growing up Canadian, “Memories of Unhousement”; Donald Hall’s widely cited manifesto “Literature and Ambition,” Joyce Carol Oates’s thoughtful “Notes on Failure”; and Lewis Hyde’s remarkable “Two Accidents,” about the role of chance in art and life. Some of the best work, however, comes from writers who are largely unknown outside the small-press orbit: Irma Wallem’s touching essay “Sex,” set in a nursing home; Thomas Lynch’s “Jessica, the Hound, and the Basket Trade,” which gives readers an insider’s view of the mortician’s lot; and Lars Eighner’s spirited, punkish “On Dumpster Diving,” which reveals the treasures to be found in a grocery store’s trash.

Fine bedside reading, and a better-than-average textbook for composition students.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-888889-24-1

Page Count: 459

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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