A unique, often marvelous memoir of discovery.

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FINDING PASCASIO

Schmidt recounts his lifelong quest to understand his father, a journalist who fled Germany on the eve of World War II, in this investigative memoir.

Schmidt’s father, Pascasio Trujillo, was not like other fathers in 1930s Berlin. He didn’t live with Schmidt and his brother, Roni, or their mother, Klara, though his infrequent visits were a source of joy. Schmidt knew that his father had come from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and that he had a mother and sister in Cuba. One day in 1939, Pascasio arrived abruptly at the apartment and said they needed to leave Germany immediately. Klara refused, so Pascasio went without them. “That Friday morning changed me,” remembers Schmidt. “I would search for an answer most of my life. I wanted my father back. Even after a lifetime, I still hear Pascasio tearing down the stairs, two and three steps at a time.” He would encounter his father again, years later, though his search for answers took much longer and crisscrossed the globe, from Hitler’s Berlin to Nazi-occupied Poland to Franco’s Spain, Castro’s Cuba, the border-crossing highways of Central America, the safe haven of Canada, and ultimately to the Canary Islands of Pascasio’s birth. Along the way, Schmidt’s search for his father becomes one for himself as the absence of one man becomes the crucible in which another is forged. Schmidt writes in an elegant, thoughtful prose that captures the author’s quiet but insistent pining for understanding: “In Madrid, I got off the plane and slowly regained my bearings. From Pascasio’s last short letter, I had the impression that he looked forward to seeing me. I was sure he would be curious about my experience meeting his Cuban mother. I was so surprised when he did not ask.” The book is long, and not every chapter is thrilling, but Schmidt provides a first-person account of so many fascinating times and places that it more than makes up for the lulls. The enigma of Pascasio becomes secondary to the experience of viewing major developments of the 20th century through one man’s personal development.

A unique, often marvelous memoir of discovery.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2465-3

Page Count: 648

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

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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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