EXIT INTO HISTORY

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE NEW EASTERN EUROPE

In a superb successor to her impressive personal memoir, Lost in Translation (1988), Hoffman chronicles two trips taken a year apart to de-Sovietized East Europe—touring her native Poland, as well as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. In each place, Hoffman talks to people (with the weight perhaps shifted inescapably to literati, political sophisticates, high achievers) and takes a remarkably humane measure of the confusions, hopes, and lavish soulfulness born of unsentimental realism that's Mitteleuropa's greatest resource. She reliably detects nuance because, in a sense, she expects to find it (``History is a process of double-ledger accounting''). Sociology never overtly jogs her focus, yet she avails herself of large, thoughtful revelations: ``It may be that just as tonality recurs in music and realism in painting, so the idea of liberalism recurs in politics—though each time in a different vein. Eastern European liberalism seems not so much born again as refined in the crucible of successive skepticisms. It has seen the dangers of fanaticism, dogmatism, and cynicism; the dangers of too much belief and none at all.'' The people she talks to seem to be master self-modulators: victims but not eternal victims, needy but never without humor, aware of nationhood the way no Western patriot quite manages to be. And the book's easily as good just as sheer travel-writing. Hoffman stays open to the physical gorgeousness of Prague, the high civilization of Budapest hotel baths, the odd survival of the Transylvanian Gypsy nonculture—and she falls in love with Bulgaria (for the Bulgarians' innate poise and lack of spiritual turmoil), just as poor Romania, plaything of a madman, seems the most cursed nation of all after the spasms of 1989. From each land Hoffman is able to generalize only when it seems called for, and to refrain from generalizing when the broad view might only obscure: a rare thing. A remarkable book. (One map)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-670-83649-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1993

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

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

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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