Original, memorable and unlike anything else that has come from the era. A fine contribution to Chinese letters in...



The “Garbo of Chinese letters” speaks, and most eloquently.

Novelist Chang, who left China in 1956 and died in the US in 1995, is perhaps better thought of as China’s answer to the always curious Walter Benjamin of the Arcades Project, less the arcane language, or perhaps even to Susan Sontag. During the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, Chang returned to her native city, took up residence on the top floor of an apartment building whose elevator man, even, was “well read and erudite, of rare cultivation” and from her aerie made pregnant observations on the things she saw in everyday life. Strangely, the Japanese occupiers do not occupy her overmuch; instead, Chang writes with keen self-awareness of her petit-bourgeois, almost untroubled life in the larger context of a rapidly changing China. One thing that did draw her attention was a long-emerging culture war that foreshadowed the political war to follow Japan’s defeat; she writes, for instance, of the “young intellectuals [who] condemned all that was traditional, even all that was Chinese,” while conservatives, “shocked out of their complacency, redoubled their efforts to suppress them.” (Mao and company, it appears, were among the conservatives.) Just so, Chang writes of the decline of kowtowing, a ritual that she was able to perform with some difficulty but preferred to reserve for special occasions. “It is only now when the custom is about to die out entirely,” she writes, “that it is mourned.” Resolutely modern, Chang finds only a little to mourn in the rise of social dancing, which had earlier been all but unknown; though she mistakenly attributes the tango to Spain and not Argentina, it seems to have fascinated her, even though her peers disliked it for its “polite promiscuity.” And on the matter of promiscuity, Chang’s description of a weathered prostitute trying to buy half a pound of pork in a proper butcher shop is priceless.

Original, memorable and unlike anything else that has come from the era. A fine contribution to Chinese letters in translation.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-231-13138-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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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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