CITIES ON A HILL

A JOURNEY THROUGH CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CULTURES

The Pulitzer-prize-winning author (Fire in the Lake) turns a penetrating gaze on four recently evolved "communities" which, she contends, exemplify America's unique penchant for abandoning the culture of the mainstream to set up diverse, self-contained societies. The first of these is "The Castro," a San Francisco neighborhood of young, primarily male homosexuals who once believed that they were at the forefront of the Sexual Revolution. In recent years, AIDS has decimated their numbers and virtually destroyed their political and social activism. Like the Castro, the retirement community of Sun City, Florida, is "something new under the sun." History has never recorded an overtly gay male community with its own tribal rituals and political organizations, nor have towns restricted entirely to older people existed prior to the mid-20th century. On the other hand, Reverend Jerry Falwell's Liberty Baptist Church of Lynchburg, Va., and his vociferous Moral Majority are neither unique nor particularly new. Fitzgerald documents their roots in the revivalist upswing of the 1820's and the later "born-again' Christian movement. Falwell's constituency is, however, a community apart from the mainstream in that it adheres to a way of life in which moral values, political judgments and day-to-day decisions are dictated from the pulpit—electronic or actual. The most bizarre community Fitzgerald scrutinizes is the Oregon town called Razneeshpuram, which attracted numerous well-heeled professionals devoted to joyous consciousness-raising and to the establishment of a unique center for worldwide spiritual enlightenment. Almost from its beginnings, the commune alienated its neighbors and, eventually, all of Oregon. It self-destructed in a series of lawsuits and government fraud citations. In analyzing these societies, Fitzgerald supplies a wealth of information on the economic, cultural, spiritual and political forces that brought them about. She virtually immerses herself into each and hobnobs with the people involved in them and with their leaders—except for the guru, Rajneesh, who had taken a vow of silence. The end result is reportage of imposing depth and breadth. Her insights are fascinating, sometimes amusing, often troubling and always stimulating.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1986

ISBN: 0330298453

Page Count: 414

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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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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