Jagged pieces of a mirror that reveal a quirky, informed and immensely curious character.

OCCASIONAL DESIRE

ESSAYS

Essayist Lazar (Creative Writing and English/Columbia Coll., Chicago; The Body of Brooklyn, 2003, etc.) returns with a collection of ruminations ranging from the quotidian to the querulous, from the evanescent to the enduring.

The essays are full of odd information—e.g., James Agee and Robert Lowell died in taxis; M.F.K. Fisher had “immense eyes.” Lazar also leaps easily from popular to high culture. Yoda appears here, as do Elizabeth Taylor and Lou Costello, sometimes in the same essay with Philip Larkin, Flannery O’Connor or Francis Bacon. His diction varies widely, as well (often in the same piece). In one essay, Lazar starts a sentence with, “There is an Epictetian balance…”; he ends another—a moving and troubling piece about death—with this: “Death is a motherfucker.” Another characteristic of his style: quotations. One essay (on the self-portraits of Bacon) ends with about four pages of them, Bacon’s words at first alternating with those of Beckett, Pascal, Nietzsche, then taking over with five consecutive aphorisms. Lazar’s essays are traditional only in the sense that they use words and that they generally focus on a principal theme—though he is quick to digress when the mood strikes, which it often, and delightfully does so. He can be funny and self-deprecating (his essay about online dating), can craft wonderful sentences of about any length (there is a weirdly endless one in the dating essay), and can drop into his paragraphs epigrams worthy of Emerson. Oddly, when writing about the essay itself, he can be a bit dogmatic, insisting that his definition of the genre is the only worthy one.

Jagged pieces of a mirror that reveal a quirky, informed and immensely curious character.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8032-4638-6

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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