THE UNEMPLOYED FORTUNE-TELLER

ESSAYS AND MEMOIRS

In this short collection of essays (some previously published in Antaeus and other literary reviews), Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Simic (Hotel Insomnia, 1992, etc.) brings off a masterfully casual beauty, whether discussing the creation of poetry and the poet's social role, praising food and the blues, or relating the travails of youth. Suspicious of all absolutist thought, the Yugoslavia-born Simic (English/Univ. of New Hampshire) is a committed individualist and, like some Eastern bloc poets who have endured socialist realism, a humorous surrealist. In deceptively discursive and casual prose, he touches on simple subjects to delve into deeper matters—for example, an autobiographical sketch chronicles his search for the meaning of human happiness in terms of favorite dishes, including Yugoslavian burek and American potato chips. Whether the subject matter is as academic as Surrealist composition, or as contemporary as the genetic engineering of his favorite fruit, the tomato, Simic gregariously mixes personal conversations with literary quotations (or, just as appositely, folk sayings and songs), and his prose can suddenly flare up into startling images: ``Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat.'' These essays' variety of approaches and subjects shows the eclectic mix of true multiculturalism, for Simic is an intellectual in the postwar model of immigrant cum exile, versed in European traditions yet enthusiastic about American culture as well. This comes into sharpest relief in his essay on murderous nationalism in Yugoslavia and his album of snapshot reminiscences of Belgrade, Chicago, and New York City. Sometimes, though, Simic's light touch fails to leave a lasting impression on the serious philosophical subjects he addresses, his selection of notebook aphorisms are hit-or-miss, and a couple of brief essays are simply culled from introductions. In one odd notebook jotting Simic projects creating a ``nongenre made up of fiction, autobiography, the essay, poetry, and of course, the joke!''—an apt description of this collection's hodge-podge charm.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-472-09569-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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