GRAVEYARD PEACHES

A CALIFORNIA MEMOIR

In a memoir whose principal appeal lies in its detailed recapturing of a bygone place and era, best-selling historical novelist De Blasis (A Season of Swans, 1989, etc.) describes growing up on her family's ranch in the high desert of Southern California. Founded by De Blasis's grandparents in the 1920's, the farm and horse ranch, about a hundred miles from L.A., later received paying guests such as J.B. Priestley, Henry Fonda, and Herman Mankiewicz. The grandmother ran her dining room as artistic salon. De Blasis describes, in no particular order, the children's adventures, the omnipresent natural world, the extended family, the help, the Catholic school, the trips to Europe, the sense of independence that her upbringing fostered and how she became a writer. This rambling remembrance tends toward the self- congratulatory. De Blasis will not eat peaches from trees that grow in graveyards, calls her childhood invention of an Indian character ``prophetic,'' and regrets that her grandmother, a published memoirist, tried to compete with her as a novelist: ``I had not used any of her publishing connections when I started out...but I did ask my agent to read Grandma's manuscript.'' Her prose quickens when she brings her family and a beloved landscape to life. Her brother died young, his passing part of a chronicle of loss that includes vanishing wildlife and open space as the ranch, like the rest of Southern California, became residential subdivision. We could, however, have been spared the fates of favorite pets. Early on, De Blasis describes finding an Indian artifact at an archaeological dig on the ranch. ``Nothing has ever made me feel the continuity of the best in human kind as keenly as I did when I held that crystal drill in my hand—small, exquisite, shaped equally for beauty and for use.'' With more precise editing and shaping, her memoir could have better realized her theme of moving backward in time. (Eight pages of photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-06362-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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