Essays that go down like candy but nourish like health food.

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THE FAME LUNCHES

ON WOUNDED ICONS, MONEY, SEX, THE BRONTËS, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF HANDBAGS

A veteran essayist for the New Yorker and numerous other significant publications returns with an eclectic collection of pieces, all of which feature her unique style and voice.

Most of Merkin’s (Dreaming of Hitler: Passions and Provocations, 1997, etc.) pieces date from the previous decade, though she offers one from 1980 about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (she calls him “preeminently the poet of withdrawn promise”). Merkin includes book reviews, reflections on the sad stories of sadder celebrities (Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and others), self-revelatory reflections on personal appearance (lip gloss, pedicures), some accounts of her personal obsessions (the Bloomsbury Group, the Brontës), tributes to writers she’s admired (poet Anne Carson, W.G. Sebald, John Updike), and thoughts about fashion and some eminent actresses (Liv Ullman, Diane Keaton, Cate Blanchett). Merkin’s style is inevitably exploratory—these are “essays” in the word’s literal sense. Like Montaigne, she writes to figure something out, not because she’s already figured it out. She also has a fondness for the parenthetical observation; in her piece about Virginia Woolf, she has some lengthy examples of this—appropriate, for Woolf herself loved them. Some of Merkin’s essays are aimed directly at women (though curious men—and/or ignorant ones—will surely find them informative): a piece about handbags (she’s bought and returned many), another on flirting, another about having male gay friends. One of her most touching essays is about the rise and fall of Betty Friedan, whom Merkin credits for lighting the fuse on the women’s movement. However, according to the author, Friedan’s personal flaws—and the rise of the more telegenic Gloria Steinem—occasioned her fall from power. Throughout, Merkin also comments in a variety of ways about her own appearance—her physical virtues, the effects of aging and the broken promises to herself.

Essays that go down like candy but nourish like health food.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-14037-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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