An often engaging story of a Chinese journey that’s worth telling.


Forbidden Fruit


A Canadian-born radical leftist and freelance broadcast journalist offers a debut memoir of her year in Communist China, where she edited English-language propaganda for Radio Beijing.

Pellett did well to delay publishing the story of her 1980 sojourn in post-Cultural Revolution Beijing. Had she published it sooner after returning to the United States, where she’s since spent most of her life working in media, she might have jeopardized the Chinese friends, colleagues, and lovers in these somewhat self-absorbed but highly engaging pages. She and her friends were under continual surveillance in a post-Mao Chinese society that was very unlike the workers’ “Little Red Book” utopia she might have imagined during her stint as a New Left revolutionary in America during the late 1960s and early ’70s. The authoritarian reality in 1980 China was one of very little personal privacy and an abundance of informants. She soon learned that talking with people while biking was the best way to avoid being overheard. As a hard-drinking, single, Western woman of 37 with red hair, lusty appetites, a stack of blues and jazz cassettes, and a propensity for asking leading questions, she attracted rabid attention. It’s no surprise that her quest for human connection, which was hampered by her inability to read or speak Mandarin, was risky for the Chinese people she met, due to Communist Party prohibitions against consorting with foreigners. Indeed, she reports that under Deng Xiaoping, campaigns against “bourgeois liberalization” and “Spiritual Pollution” later led to a million arrests and 24,000 executions. Still, she richly remembers some of the people who dared cross the line and interact with her. She also provides a marvelously deft view of street life in Beijing and other parts of China during the time of her visit. She pays less attention here to her humdrum job as a foreign expert at Radio Beijing, a state-run international broadcaster spouting the party line in four dozen languages. Readers can only marvel at her naïve realization that her colleagues weren’t really journalists and that she was “working for a propaganda institution rather than a journalistic agency.”

An often engaging story of a Chinese journey that’s worth telling.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-934395-59-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: VanDam Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2016

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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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