A stirring recollection of the impact of global politics on one man’s family.

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LENIN, HITLER, AND ME

In a posthumously published memoir, a Russian man relives the turbulence of revolution and war in the 20th century.

Debut author Kochanowsky was born in Siberia in 1905 in the culturally bustling city of Krasnoyarsk. As part of a talented, ambitious family, he was driven to be academically successful; he also became an accomplished piano player and learned to love the opera and Beethoven. Even World War I barely touched his remote home. However, the Russian Revolution in 1917 shattered his idyllic upbringing; after the rise of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, war and tyranny arrived at his doorstep. Thousands of people died in Krasnoyarsk, and Communist soldiers unceremoniously confiscated property that belonged to the author’s family. The Kochanowskys finally fled, and the author decided that they had no choice but to escape to China. They made their way to the Chinese city of Harbin, and the author later moved to Freiberg, Germany, where he put himself through school by working as a coal miner. However, he later witnessed the rise of the Nazis in Dusseldorf, in the ugly form of Kristallnacht. Although he’d always attended Christian churches, the Gestapo declared him to be Jewish, due to his family history, which made his life in Germany dangerous; he traveled around the country to avoid capture and hoped to one day make his way to the United States. After several close calls with the Gestapo and some jail time, Kochanowsky was able to make it to Switzerland, where he met his future wife. From there they moved to Argentina and, finally, in 1953, to New York City. The story in this memoir is consistently inspiring, and Kochanowsky is right to label himself a “moral athlete,” as he shows how he remained unwaveringly committed to his ideals despite great danger and temptation. Of course, the story is dominated by his experiences with geopolitical turmoil, but he also writes charmingly of art, romance, and even sex. Along the way, he also avoids the resentful cynicism that often results from extraordinary loss. This manuscript was prepared by the author’s daughter, Vera Kochanowsky, and she includes a foreword that affectionately describes her own remembrances of him. Overall, this is a moving memoir and a marvelous firsthand account of one of the most momentous eras in modern history.

A stirring recollection of the impact of global politics on one man’s family. 

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4834-6171-7

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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