DR FISCHER OF GENEVA OR THE BOMB PARTY

Bizarre, minor, mini-Greene—an unsatisfying novella redeemed nonetheless by a master's storytelling expertise and by a dozen or more absolutely splendid coloring touches. The essential story: our narrator, middle-aged widower Alfred Jones, meets and loves and marries Anna-Luise, the beautiful daughter of Geneva's Dr. Fischer, a notorious millionaire who gives parties to humiliate and test the infinite greed of a circle of rich, toadying acquaintances; and eventually, after pregnant Anna-Luise has died in a skiing accident, Jones attends Dr. F.'s final greed party—a sort of Russian Roulette with bombs—and tries to ruin it with his own suicide but fails. . . while Dr. F. himself does self-destruct. As parable, the tale hardly works at all: cold, sadistic Dr. F. is frequently equated with God, who is ""greedy for our humiliation. . . he twists the endless screw""—but Greene's familiar pessimism doesn't quite translate into symbolic black comedy; and the cartoon-ish rich dupes here (who eat gross gruel or risk death-by-bomb in order to get expensive prizes) aren't persuasive on metaphorical or any other terms. But trust Greene the storyteller: he uses human, just-slightly-surreal colors to shade his parable toward reality, and they are perfectly balanced, invariably poignant: Jones lost a hand in the London blitz and works as a translator at a Swiss chocolate factory; Dr. Fischer made his fortune by inventing Dentophil Bouquet toothpaste; Dr. F. tortures one of his toadies, horribly bent-over Monsieur Kips, by causing a marvelous children's-book series to be written about him, deformity and all; and most of Dr. F.'s lifetime rage stems from the fact that his dead wife surreptitiously, platonically, listened to Mozart with a humble clerk. Resonant details like these crop up on every other page, projecting Greene's smiling sadness in a way that the central premise never does. And the austerely understated love between Jones and Anna-Luise somehow lingers in the mind longer than the vividly concocted humiliation parties. A few readers may be happy to seize on Greene's cynical and macabre leanings here, happy to construct webs of theme (Catholic and otherwise) around the Dr. F. deity; but most will merely tolerate all that while savoring the by-the-way Greene pleasures that are all the more apparent, and impressive in such a tiny, relaxed book.

Pub Date: May 1, 1980

ISBN: 0140185283

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1980

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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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