Readers who have been waiting for Tucker Max to travel more fully will be thrilled to discover Maslin’s antics, which will...

THE LONG HITCH HOME

An ambitious, uneven account of hitchhiking across three continents, from a smart but surprisingly immature British travel writer.

Beginning on the island of Tasmania in Southern Australia, Maslin (Socialist Dreams and Beauty Queens: A Couchsurfer's Memoir of Venezuela, 2011, etc.) set out to travel home to London relying entirely on free rides from strangers. The author spends just as much time describing the characters he met—with their strange customs and languages—as on painting a full picture of the places he visited. After recounting a ride that delivered him “into the Indonesian equivalent of the Sopranos,” Maslin devotes an entire chapter to describing what he sees as key in understanding modern Indonesia: “the bloody legacy of the country’s former dictator…and the role Western governments…played in his rise to power.” The author’s use of footnotes helps him expand on and support his opinionated political views and well-researched accounts of history, which give context to his personal experiences. He also employs footnotes less seriously—e.g., when a Thai man asked about the size of a certain body part of Maslin’s, his response, “Erm, sufficient,” is accompanied by this footnote: “Remember that British understatement a moment ago?” The author’s boyish humor and privilege can come across less than favorably, such as when he throws a “petulant” fit at a local tour operator or the ways in which he refers to women—e.g., a language confusion in China resulted in “a rather worn-looking middle-aged woman in high heels…classic mutton dressed as lamb” appearing at his hotel room door.

Readers who have been waiting for Tucker Max to travel more fully will be thrilled to discover Maslin’s antics, which will likely turn off some readers. However, those charmed by the author’s guile and those who choose to push past their annoyance will be rewarded with an honest and gripping travel narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1620878316

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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