A SUPPOSEDLY FUN THING I'LL NEVER DO AGAIN

ESSAYS AND ARGUMENTS

This collection of essays by hot novelist Wallace (Infinite Jest, 1996, etc.) is sometimes tiresome but often truly rewarding.

Wallace is a fine prose stylist of the post-Beat school. His long sentences overflow with prepositional phrases; commas are scarce. At his best—which is to say, about half the time here—Wallace writes with an intensity that transforms rambling reportage into a sui generis mode of weird philosophizing. He makes deft use of footnotes to pile up insights beneath the flow of his main line of thought. Especially brilliant is the collection's opening essay, in which Wallace looks back on his childhood experiences as a Midwestern junior tennis star through the lens of his collegiate obsession with mathematics. The tennis world, treated at length in Infinite Jest, resurfaces in a sensitive profile of rising American player Michael Joyce. Otherwise, Wallace's best work comes in two pieces that originally appeared in Harper's: a ferocious investigative report on the culture of luxury cruises, and the record of another carnival voyage, this one a trip to the Illinois State Fair. A book review competently discusses literary-theoretical debates over the death-of-the-author thesis. Elsewhere in the volume, Wallace takes determined dives into banality. A more judicious, albeit less focused, effort finds Wallace on the set with filmmaker David Lynch, whom he presents as a contemporary artistic hero. A sprawling meditation on television and contemporary fiction lays out many intriguing theories, but its main point, that TV irony snares rather than liberates viewers, doesn't make news. At his best, the exuberant Wallace amazes with his “Taoistic ability to control via noncontrol.” But—to continue quoting from his opening tour-de-force, “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley''—eschewing discipline exacts a price: “Force without law has no shape, only tendency and duration.''

 

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1997

ISBN: 0-316-91989-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1996

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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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