As satisfying as any trip by Paul Theroux but with a much less prickly and much more forgiving narrator.

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SOUTH OF THE CLOUDS

TRAVELS IN SOUTHWEST CHINA

Journalist/translator and intrepid traveler Porter (Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China, 2008, etc.) takes readers on another virtual journey into the China few Westerners know.

On his latest, Porter traveled to Yunnan, in southwestern China, a place opened to foreigners way back in Marco Polo’s day—courtesy of the invading Mongols, the author points out—but not much visited even so. The narrative opens in the frontier city of Wuchou, fairly new “as Chinese towns go,” having been built 1,400 years ago, “back in the T’ang dynasty, when the Chinese decided they needed a more permanent presence in order to control the trade goods that poured forth from that region.” The Chinese have been seeking to control the place ever since, as Porter quietly points out while traveling from one ethnic enclave to another, telling tales of amity and enmity. As a reporter, he’s a font of oddities, noting which towns are renowned for snake recipes, which cater to the tourist trade, and which are best avoided altogether. Mostly, he writes with good humor (“Kuelin…now featured the standard overpriced tourist facilities and services that catered to large tour groups, which were okay if you don’t mind being treated like a sheep”), and he’s inclined to laugh at himself for getting into odd situations—e.g., perched on a high cliff over the Yangtze River, with only himself to blame for the predicament. The book has a slightly scattershot feel, without the keen sense of goal and direction that marked Porter’s Road to Heaven (1993), but the journey is absorbing all the same, a tale of precarious mountain passes, forbidden borderlands, and mostly lovely people, to say nothing of a statue of a “two-foot-high vulva.”

As satisfying as any trip by Paul Theroux but with a much less prickly and much more forgiving narrator.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61902-719-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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