Ordinary lives rendered extraordinary by a master journalist who captures all their perplexity and quiet rebellion.



A selection of journalistic pieces from 1999 to 2007 by an accomplished Brazilian journalist, novelist, and documentary filmmaker spotlights “a country that exists only in the plural…the Brazils.”

A rigorous investigative journalist who attempts to inhabit the lives of her subjects while suppressing her own “biases, judgments, [and] worldviews,” El País columnist Brum (One Two, 2014, etc.) adheres to a method of listening carefully and letting her subjects unravel the story themselves. In the first piece, “Forest of Midwives,” the author chronicles the vivid tale of midwives in the riverlands of far northern Brazil, whose ancient skills at “baby-catching” are passed from generation to generation. Although the women don’t get paid or have a lot to eat, children are their riches: “Out here in these backwaters of death,” says one elder midwife, “either we fill the world with children or we vanish.” Brum writes eloquently of people mired in the doomed cycle of poverty, most of whom can’t get a leg up because there is no support. In “Burial of the Poor,” the author writes about Antonio, “feller of trees,” who walked to the hospital to retrieve his stillborn baby, just one of the numberless poor who “begin to be buried in life.” In the most heart-wrenching longer piece, “The Noise,” Brum tells the story of T., a longtime worker in an asbestos plant in São Paulo who was dying of mesothelioma (the “noise” was the hideous sound of his gasping for breath). Poisoned by the plant owners who knew the health danger and tried to get him to sign away indemnity (he refused), he told Blum, “I am made of asbestos.” Among many other poignant stories, the author describes the teeming underbelly of the favelas in Brasilândia, the desperately poor gold prospectors in Eldorado do Juma, a defiant elderly community in Rio de Janeiro, and a threatened clan of Indigenous people deep in the heart of the Amazon.

Ordinary lives rendered extraordinary by a master journalist who captures all their perplexity and quiet rebellion.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64445-005-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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