Self-absorbed and tortuous.

DUENDE

A JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF FLAMENCO

Can an American-born Englishman with blond hair go to Spain and find fulfillment as a flamenco guitar player?

That’s one of the questions posed by debut author Webster, and the predictable answer is that it may take immersion in a “flamenco lifestyle” that includes the assimilation of some Andalusian gypsy lingo, philosophy, mannerisms, and, perforce, months of association with the likes of car thieves and drug dealers. For good (or ill) measure, throw in a hit-and-run affair with an older woman, wife of the man who is charitable enough to employ you, thus funding your guitar lessons. There is no clock running in this hazy memoir, but it seems that in an amazingly short time Webster becomes proficient enough to sit in as an accompanist with a loose troupe of flamenco singers and dancers who are, by his own sad estimation, “good enough to play for tourists.” He exists nightly in the lower realm of this company, since creeping paranoia (perhaps enhanced by cocaine) convinces him that his blond locks make him an unwitting tourist attraction within a tourist attraction. One wonders, at least briefly, how this could happen to someone so inspired by the concept of duende, the elusive, transitory, sometimes orgasmic state that occurs when flamenco performers get grooved and surpass themselves. To his credit, Webster eventually discovers that duende can sometimes happen offstage, in a glance or an expression or the barrel of a gun, as well as in the ear of the beholder, and he finally reasons that without 20 years of practice and the genius he lacks he won’t be able to produce it on a flamenco guitar. But, perhaps . . . as a storyteller? Bad news there, too: Webster’s readers may find that they share the fate of a local gypsy whose tattoo proclaims: “Born to suffer.”

Self-absorbed and tortuous.

Pub Date: March 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-1166-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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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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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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