A voyage fit only for lunatics. In terms of achievement, Tayler could as easily have played Russian roulette.




A dangerous and self-indulgent journey up and down the Congo River: thankfully, travel-writer Tayler (Siberian Dawn, 1999) comes in the end to understand it as such.

Feeling a peckishness of the spirit for all the tried-and-true reasons—his job a corporate trap, his writing going nowhere, the need for a “defining achievement” at a “decisive moment,” the fact that at his age Christ had already died—Tayler decides to hit the road. V. S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River struck the spark, and Stanley’s 1870 expedition fanned it into a blaze: He would travel the Congo (Zaire at the time of his 1995 trip) River from Kinshasa to Kisangani, 1,100 miles in a pirogue. That ought to blow the gunk out of his carburetor, particularly since he knows that Mobutu’s Zaire was one corrupt, murderous, uncomfortable—but impossibly romantic—place. The barge trip up the river to Kisangani drives home the discomfort and corruption, and the shroud of suspicion that rests on any white traveler to those parts—the whites are assumed to be after something, from diamonds to you-don’t-want-to-know—but erases any romantic notions. Tayler isn’t much of a place portraitist (“the sun died a vivid death in a violet sky”), but he does an ample job of conveying the dread of a nation still on its knees from the army looting sprees of 1991 and 1993. The “heat and crowd and hassle” of the barge trip is more than matched by the terror of the downriver paddle in the pirogue. Out of a land of parrots and butterflies would come strangers, saying to Tayler and his guide: “Ah, you have a gun. You win! We would have robbed and killed you both, and who would have ever known!” Ultimately, he realizes he is endangering not just his own life, but the lives of others in his company, and that the trip proves little but how scared one can become.

A voyage fit only for lunatics. In terms of achievement, Tayler could as easily have played Russian roulette.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-80826-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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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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