LOST IN AMERICA

The Nobel Laureate continues his selective, semi-fictional memoirs—"contributions to an autobiography I never intend to write"—with a third, large-print volume illustrated by Raphael Soyer. It's now 1935, and, "since I didn't possess the courage to kill myself," Isaac must escape from Poland and join his older brother in N.Y. Which means leaving behind his assorted amours: Trotskyite Lena, now pregnant; epically depressed matron Stefa ("If a grave would open for me, I'd jump into it this minute"); and cousin Esther. But Isaac, that "timid adventurer," does manage to get his visa—"I envied the cobblestones in the street, which needed no passports, no visas, no novels, no reviews"—and trembles his way across Europe to the boat at Cherbourg. He's lost on the ship. He fears that his dining-hall card marked "second sitting" is a signal to the waiter "to poison my food." He ends up eating in his cabin, served stale bread and cheese by "a man who could be a prison guard". . .until meeting congenial virgin Zosia (who's headed for Boston). And once settled in Brooklyn, near writer brother Joshua, he's overwhelmed with melancholy: he can't write (though the Yiddish Forward has bought his unfinished novel); he knows no English ("I knew that I would remain a stranger here to my last day"); he has an obsessive affair with an older woman, a haunted widow ("She hadn't lost her husband, she assured me—his spirit had entered by body"). Worse yet, he'll be deported if he doesn't get a permanent visa. So he embarks on a nerve-wracking scheme requiring him to sneak into Canada—and his accomplice is Zosia, who clearly hopes to lose her virginity on the trip. (But this loveless act is unconsummated: "our genitals, which in the language of the vulgar are synonyms of stupidity and insensitivity, are actually the. . .enemies of lechery, the most ardent defenders of true love.") Isaac returns to his cockroach-infested room, Zosia marries a rich oddball, life goes on: "I am lost in America, lost forever." And despite the nonstop laments, this sharp, shapely memoir bounces along quite merrily—with the wicked, ironic grace of three or four overlapping Singer stories.

Pub Date: June 5, 1981

ISBN: 0385177178

Page Count: 259

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1981

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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