An often intriguing, if overlong, memoir about a life outside the mainstream.




Zindler (Through Atheist Eyes, 2011, etc.) explores his long life as an atheist activist in this remembrance.

The author, who was born in the late 1930s, has witnessed the great changes in American society over the years. Drawing on his experiences as an evolutionary biologist, a prominent atheist, and a gay man who spent the majority of his life in the closet, he examines the battles that he’s waged to free people from what sees as the oppressive influence of the Bible. “The voices that echo and reverberate inside my head deserve to be allowed to speak one final time before they slip into eternal silence,” he writes in an introduction; to that end, he recounts his “many lives” and the people he met along the way, from his childhood on a farm outside Benton Harbor, Michigan, and his intense teenage religiosity following the sudden death of his father, to his long marriage to his wife, Ann, and his personal development as a strident atheist and out gay man. Additionally, Zindler discusses his friendship with the secular activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of the organization American Atheists who, with her son and granddaughter, was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1995; he goes on to claim that the actual motivations for the killings differ from the official account. Throughout his book, Zindler’s prose is energetic, humane, and engaging, often revealing long-ago feelings as if they’re happening at the moment; for example, about the captain of a golf team, he writes, “Shod in golf shoes and wearing white shorts and a white polo shirt, he was Adonis come to earth. My heart was pounding so hard I could feel the pulsations in my neck. He was so close to me!” It’s a rather lengthy book, however, and some parts of the author’s life yield more compelling stories than others; his tales of his activist days, though, are particular standouts. Indeed, Zindler is such a sharp, personable presence on the page that he manages to carry the reader through the less interesting stretches.

An often intriguing, if overlong, memoir about a life outside the mainstream.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-57884-039-7

Page Count: 508

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2018

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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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