A thoughtful remembrance for those within Magner’s inner circle.




A physician recollects a contented life as a family man and lover of science. 

Magner (Chess Juggler: Balancing Career, Family and Chess in the Modern World, 2011) grew up in the 1950s and ’60s in Quincy, a small town in Western Illinois. At an early age, he became aware of his “natural curiosity” about the world and realized that he was “unusually ambitious.” He was drawn to intellectually challenging games; he started playing chess in 1965 at the end of eighth grade, and in 1985, he joined the U.S. Chess Federation and began playing rated games. As a child, he experienced an inspiring wonder about the world that would last the rest of his life: “I was astounded already by the age of eight by the concepts of the immense age of the Earth, and that oceans had once covered our neighborhood!” That first kernel of scientific excitement blossomed into a medical career. After studying biology and chemistry in college, Magner attended Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. He became an endocrinologist and worked as a clinician, academic, and researcher in the pharmaceutical industry. The author was just as devoted to his family—he married his wife, Glenda, in 1977 and raised two daughters. He always tried to strike a balance, sometimes delicate, between the need to be “rigorous, exacting, detail-oriented, logical and responsible” and the opportunity to “enjoy life, love and be loved, and be fully open to chance events.” This remembrance is brimming with charming anecdotes, some of them joyful and others candidly sad. For example, while in medical school, he once contracted mono from a female neighbor who suddenly (and without encouragement) kissed him—she gained entry into his apartment under the pretense of looking something up in his medical textbooks. In another, more somber tale, a teenager he was treating for pneumonia died, leaving him to forlornly consider the “mystery of human suffering.” The author liberally and prudently dispenses advice on a wide range of subjects as well, including finding a career and managing one’s finances. Some of the memoir’s more idiosyncratically personal aspects are less likely to appeal to an audience beyond Magner’s family and friends. The author includes lots of black-and-white photographs of himself and family, copies of meaningful correspondence, astronomical sketches he drew as a youth, and college transcripts. In an extensive series of appendices, he includes some full-length copies of scholarly articles he wrote as well. He even discusses—in impressive detail, frankly—past chess moves and games. While such inclusions add character and personality to Magner’s autobiography, they also diminish its universal relevance for the reader. Nonetheless, Magner lived a very full life with no shortage of either triumph or trauma, and the wisdom that resulted is a pleasure to read. Especially those with an inclination for science can benefit from his meditations on a life properly devoted to both reason and what lies beyond its reach. 

A thoughtful remembrance for those within Magner’s inner circle.

Pub Date: March 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941270-16-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Russell Enterprises, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2018

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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 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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