A digressive but impassioned mash note to a film that defies easy summary.

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ZONA

A BOOK ABOUT A FILM ABOUT A JOURNEY TO A ROOM

A personal meditation on Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker—though, this being a Dyer (Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, 2011, etc.) book, it’s about plenty more besides.

Stalker is a relatively obscure entry in Russian director Tarkovsky’s oeuvre, but it’s exceedingly receptive to critical analysis. The film follows three archetypes—Writer, Professor and Stalker—in a mysterious and heavily guarded wilderness as they ponder the meaning of life. Dyer doesn’t provide a critical analysis of the film so much as a scene-by-scene walkthrough of it, just to see where it takes him—which is pretty far. He riffs on The Last of the Mohicans, Chernobyl, his affinity for particular brands of knapsack, the effect of aging on one's enthusiasm for cultural consumption, and more. At his most far-flung, he recalls his squandered opportunities for ménages à trois. Such digressions are vintage Dyer: Inserted as footnotes or parentheticals, they sometimes go on for so long that it can be hard to recall the scene in the movie that prompted the comment in the first place. He delivers a few too many hokey puns, and he sometimes overreaches to argue for the film’s ongoing influence. (A claim that the film works as a 9/11 allegory is particularly forced.) The lack of a strong thesis is frustrating, and ultimately this is a lesser Dyer book. However, it gets over on his enthusiasm for the film and on his infectious admiration of Tarkovsky’s philosophical reach. The “room” at the center of Stalker represents our need to locate our deepest desires, Dyer explains, and in that context maybe talking about those failed three-ways was necessary after all.

A digressive but impassioned mash note to a film that defies easy summary.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-37738-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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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