THE LOST CONTINENT

TRAVELS IN SMALL-TOWN AMERICA

An unending barrage of sarcastic commentary—some of it funny, most of it obnoxious—nearly obscures the occasional acute perceptions of America that Bryson peppers throughout this prodigal son's report. After living and travel-writing for more than a decade in England, Bryson, inspired by a trip to his hometown of Des Moines to attend his father's funeral, decided to explore the US. Here, he reports on his recent trip crisscrossing the nation, guffawing and complaining most of the way, visiting mainly small towns and the countryside in between, but also a few cities, most on the East Coast. True to the book's sour spirit, it begins with a disappointment: a visit to Bryson's grandparents' Iowa house, now no longer the happy home of memory but merely a "shack" surrounded by "cheap little houses." Bryson finds solace by buying the Sunday New York Times, though, and points out that it costs 75,000 trees to reproduce: "So what it' our grandchildren have no oxygen lo breath? Fuck'em." Bryson's humor doesn't get much sharper than that, but his eye for American foibles does, as he endures the, to him, dull plains of Nebraska; garishness of Las Vegas; spookiness of the Smoky Mountains; terrors of a Philadelphia slum; overorderliness of the Smithsonian, and onwards. The mailing of America, the violence that pervades the land, the sleazy films that fill the airwaves: these are the sores that shock or amuse his expatriate's eye. But still Bryson finds good here: the simple dignity of Elvis' birthplace in Tupelo, Miss,; the glories of the Grand Canyon; the nostalgic treasures of baseball's spacious Hall of Fame; and, finally, returning lo Des Moines, all that makes this city "friendly and decent and nice." Bryson is a smooth writer, only far too Smug and self-consciously cranky; still, his account is funny al times, insightful at others. But for a mine mature, wise, and winsome American odyssey by another expatriate, see Mort Rosenblum's excellent Back Home (p. 978).

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1989

ISBN: 0060920084

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1989

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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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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