A personal look at the disintegration of the Soviet Union, experienced through the eyes of an occasionally callow, but...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

VODKA SHOT, PICKLE CHASER

A TRUE STORY OF RISK, CORRUPTION, AND SELF-DISCOVERY AMID THE COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION

An affecting coming-of-age memoir looking at life in the Soviet Union at a time of political and social change by American debut author Kalis.

Recent college graduate David found himself at loose ends. He knew he wanted to use his degree in Soviet East European Studies but wasn’t sure how. He embarked on a 30-day trip to the Soviet Union, hoping to improve his language skills, and ended up staying two and a half years, only returning to the United States when he had completed a voyage of self-discovery. On his very first day in Moscow in 1991, he found himself on a Soviet tank photographing a political uprising; two years later, he repeated the experience at a demonstration at the Bely Dom, the Russian White House. However, the second time, after being shot at, he underwent a watershed moment, realizing that it was time to leave the city he had made his home. Although small in stature, Kalis is big in chutzpah: He talked his way into a job, met his hero Gorbachev, and stood up to the Russian Mafia (vodka helped). Kalis’ forthrightness allows readers to see the flaws in his younger self, most of them attributable to the foibles of youth. However, despite his immaturity, he possesses a moral code, which prevented him from taking advantage of the prevalence of prostitution and pornography, preferring instead to meet partners the old-fashioned way. When Kalis finally visited the village of his grandfather’s birth, in Ukraine, he achieved a deeper understanding of his heritage and the losses his Jewish grandparents experienced during the Holocaust and pogroms. The scenes in Ukraine, in which he feels a deep connection with the people and his own faith, are particularly poignant in the context of recent events in the region. While Kalis doesn’t provide much historical background, his first-person account of life in the Soviet Union at the tail end of the Cold War provides depth that history texts cannot. Well-written and absorbing, his memoir will appeal to general readers as well as those with an interest in Eastern Europe.

A personal look at the disintegration of the Soviet Union, experienced through the eyes of an occasionally callow, but always likable, young man.

Pub Date: March 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0991230204

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Forward Motion Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more