By the end of this refreshingly modern take on literature, Batuman feels like a friend, and her essays like the remarkably...

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POSSESSED

ADVENTURES WITH RUSSIAN BOOKS AND THE PEOPLE WHO READ THEM

In her debut, New Yorker contributor and n+1 fan favorite Batuman turns lit-crit on its head with a cheeky, guided tour through her own literary scholarship.

The academy wasn’t always the author’s life calling; rather, the “six-foot-tall first-generation Turkish woman” dreamed of writing her novels. But fate—and her mother’s copy of Anna Karenina—intervened, leading to a series of adventures delving deep into Babel, Tolstoy, Chekhov and other such notables. Part travelogue, part anthropological study and part meditation on literature, her essays take readers into the strange corners of her academic journey, including the ice palaces of St. Petersburg, the streets of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where bakeries are signified by a flat loaf of bread literally nailed to the doors, and a literary convention in suburban California. Fans of popular Russian writers will delight in the Tolstoy chapter, in which Batuman finds herself at a convention of scholars, investigating a possible murder on the grounds of Tolstoy’s ancestral home. The chapter evolves like a real-life, esoteric version of the board game Clue. The author’s dissection of a Stanford Babel convention—her first essay ever published—is biting and thoroughly entertaining. The longest and most engrossing chapters focus on her bizarre foray into Central Asia, where she seeks a link between her Turkish heritage and the Russian literature she has come to adore, deeply testing the bonds of a romantic relationship along the way. The essays are arranged almost haphazardly, with the Samarkand summer broken into three parts interspersed with other essays, but that only adds to the book’s quirky charm.

By the end of this refreshingly modern take on literature, Batuman feels like a friend, and her essays like the remarkably well-constructed, analytical, eye-opening e-mails you always wanted that friend to send.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-53218-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2009

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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

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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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