A thoroughly researched, often clearly explained story of transportation disasters and what can be done to prevent them.

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Railroad Collisions, a Deadly Story of Mismanaged Risk

An impassioned indictment of the current system of rail safety in the United States.

In this debut, Swimmer addresses the problem of fatal railway accidents, particularly those that occur at grade crossings where drivers and pedestrians share space with trains. He provides a detailed analysis of several collisions from the past two decades, along with their resulting investigations and policy effects. He draws on media coverage, interviews with transportation officials, and reports by state and federal agencies that regulate train travel. The book reveals a complex, consistent pattern of problems, including malfunctioning signals, a lack of clear authority (“you can’t run a train across Chicago without at least four different sets of rules, signals, or safety systems”), and work schedules that maximize train-operator fatigue and inattention. Although pedestrians, drivers, train operators, railway management, and government regulators all come in for criticism, the book saves its harshest judgments for the last two groups; the government, Swimmer says, prefers recommendations to mandates, and railroads require repeated lobbying before making changes as minor as instructing engineers to turn on all their headlights. Many collisions in this book took place near Swimmer’s home in the Chicago suburbs, a region with a disproportionate number of railroad fatalities. He draws clear portraits of the accident victims, often through interviews with surviving relatives, and makes their personalities integral to the stories. The prose is often unpolished (including frequent use of the phrase “a accident”), and it tends to repeat information unnecessarily, such as the fact that railroad rest facilities aren’t intended to be places to sleep. However, Swimmer’s evident passion for and knowledge about the subject shine through, and he does an excellent job of making accident reports and unfamiliar geography understandable for railway novices.

A thoroughly researched, often clearly explained story of transportation disasters and what can be done to prevent them.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5171-0633-1

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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