LE TON BEAU DE MAROT

IN PRAISE OF THE MUSIC OF LANGUAGE

The author of the famous meta-mathematical treatise Gîdel, Escher, Bach investigates the formal qualities of language, translation, and literature in a friendly, sometimes brilliant, but generally pedantic series of meditations. Hofstadter's hymn to language overflows with chatty narration and personal anecdotes, all revolving around a tightly formed nucleus: his efforts ten years ago to translate into English a ``sweet, old, small, elegant'' love poem by the French Renaissance writer Clement Marot. Hofstadter tells how he came to understand translation in terms of various logical models for the transferability of patterns. He illustrates these models with a tremendous hodgepodge of case studies involving literary translations but also hexagonal chess games, off-color jokes, Chopin compositions, and problems that arose in translating Gîdel, Escher, Bach into other languages. Hofstadter draws particularly on insights framed in his own field, artifical intelligence, where the question of translatability raises larger philosophical questions of what it means to be human. Each chapter features a version of Marot's poem or other poems by Hofstadter or one of his friends illustrating points at issue. But despite Hofstadter's multifarious ingenuity, his central insights—e.g., the sublime complexity of language—seem banal. The complexities which Hofstadter explores will for the most part seem familiar, not just to philosophers of language and literary critics, but to thoughtful lay readers. Even the idea of love that Hofstadter offers (which posits that ``each human soul is a distributed entity that is, of course, concentrated most intensely in one particular brain but that is also present in a diluted or partial manner in many other brains''), while sincere, seems densely labored. While Hofstadter deserves praise for trying to rekindle the romance between science and literature, he might have succeeded better had he recalled their long-shared history, instead of feeling called on to engineer a blind date.

Pub Date: April 23, 1997

ISBN: 0-465-08643-8

Page Count: 816

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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