A captivating read notable for off-the-cuff candor and measured, eloquent prose.




Everything you always wanted to know about this vast, sparsely populated former Soviet republic but didn’t learn from Borat.

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen did not invent Kazakhstan, as one Western woman assumed in a conversation with British journalist Robbins (The Empress of Ireland: A Chronicle of an Unusual Friendship, 2005, etc.). It’s the land of the ancient Scythians and Sarmatians, “shrouded in mystery from the beginning of time.” Seeking to dispel some of those mysteries, the author conducted research and made visits over several years. Apples are thought to have originated in Kazakhstan, he tells us, and tulips too; today it teems with abundant oil reserves, coal, copper, uranium, platinum and gold. Robbins’s travelogue enthusiastically and infectiously blends history, observation and mini biographies. Kazakhstan virtually disappeared from sight when Russia expanded eastward in the 19th century, bringing along tyranny as an unwelcome export. The region’s remoteness made it a favorite with both tsars and commissars for disposing of political undesirables: Dostoyevsky did time in Kazakhstan; Stalin exiled Trotsky there in 1928; and Solzhenitsyn was one of countless prisoners who suffered in the Kazakh Gulag. Robbins tells happier stories as well. He met a real-life berkutchy, who hunted with eagles trained from infancy, and the sole surviving member of the “Kazakh Beatles,” whose enthusiasm for the Fab Four was “fresh as the day he first heard ‘Please Please Me.’ ” The author also interviewed Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led his people to independence in 1991, privatized industry, introduced a new currency and valiantly dealt with a leftover nuclear cache and a major environmental disaster. On his last visit, Robbins learned that Nazarbayev planned to build a giant yurt with indoor gardens, beaches, a concert hall and an underground shopping court, “to provide winter fun for everyone” during Kazakhstan’s long months of subzero temperatures.

A captivating read notable for off-the-cuff candor and measured, eloquent prose.

Pub Date: April 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-9777433-8-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atlas & Co.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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