FIVE BILLION VODKA BOTTLES TO THE MOON

TALES OF A SOVIET SCIENTIST

Lighthearted, Feynman-style recollections of a Soviet astronomer (co-author with Carl Sagan of Intelligent Life in the Universe), first published as a mid-1980's samizdat publication in the USSR. The impression Shklovsky (1916-85) left with most Americans he encountered on his infrequent visits from the Soviet Union was one not only of scientific brilliance but of a sharp wit, shocking outspokenness, and unusual likability. These qualities shine forth in these memoirs of a self-described fortunate fellow—born into a poor Ukrainian Jewish household—who rose, after many rejections, to a seat in the Soviet Academy and a major role in that nation's space program. Shrewd and amusing observations of Soviet scientific life include a portrait of the young Sakharov as a painfully introverted mama's boy (the two scientists remained friends for life); the habit one Soviet mathematician maintained, for the continued success of his career, of expressing encoded thanks for Stalin's death into all his work; the contagious joy Shklovsky experienced on the few occasions he was allowed abroad: to Brazil, where he attempted to record a solar eclipse; to Paris, where he nearly starved on a Soviet allowance; to New York, where he watched, entranced, the televised transmission of the Apollo 8 mission; to San Francisco, where he was entertained by Edward Teller; and to Albuquerque, where, over Mexican food, he discussed the possibility of extraterrestrial life with astrophysicist Phil Morrison, one of the instigators of SETI. Bitter reminders of Soviet anti-Semitism and the arrests Shklovsky witnessed in his long career add bite to his generally sunny and shrewd anecdotes. His death in 1984, before the current Soviet thaw, makes this collection particularly poignant. A joyful, inspiring and often provocative gesture of fellowship from the other side of the wall.

Pub Date: June 24, 1991

ISBN: 0-393-02990-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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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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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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