SELECTED LETTERS OF SERGEI PROKOFIEV

An entertaining and useful selection of Prokofiev’s correspondence with prominent figures in Soviet and ÇmigrÇ art, dance, and music circles that brims with the composer’s personality and literary style. After reading but a few of Prokofiev’s letters (appearing in English for the first time), one can easily agree with Robinson’s suggestion that, had he not become a composer, Prokofiev might have turned to writing. He did write opera librettos, but the letters in this collection are especially revealing of the private man—a witty and ironic, though harsh, friend, a tireless worker, and an energetic man of business. Among those included in this selection of business letters (many about artistic collaborations), travel reports, and friendly notes are figures in the music world (Serge Koussevitsky, Nikolai Miaskovsky), the director Sergei Eisenstein, Ballets Russes director Sergei Diaghilev, and theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold. The list is a virtual who’s who of the Soviet artistic elite, and many letters shed light on the nature of Prokofiev’s artistry and his personality. Robinson, the author of a 1987 biography of the composer, also provides useful introductions to each chapter. His comments are unsentimental and even brutally candid. Describing the composer’s egotism and his mocking manner, he writes: —Empathy and compassion were never strong traits in Prokofiev’s character.— Robinson has published these letters in an effort to help save Prokofiev’s reputation from those (especially post—Cold War Russians) who condemn his —collaboration— with the Soviets. The letters, he argues, provide proof for his earlier claim that Prokofiev lacked political views. While they confirm that music was his raison d’àtre, they also indicate that, while Prokofiev chose to distance himself from politics, he was not ignorant of them. A valuable and accessible resource for musicologists, Soviet specialists, and those seeking greater insight into Prokofiev’s life and art. Readers should, however, make up their own minds about his politics.

Pub Date: May 29, 1998

ISBN: 1-55553-347-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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