Tayler ventures at points into Colin Thubron and Robert Kaplan territory, returning with a satisfying narrative that is of...

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MURDERERS IN MAUSOLEUMS

RIDING THE BACK ROADS OF EMPIRE BETWEEN MOSCOW AND BEIJING

A closely observed memoir of travels through Central Asia, where portents of continent-wide conflict loom.

Atlantic Monthly correspondent Tayler (River of No Reprieve: Descending Siberia’s Waterway of Exile, Death, and Destiny, 2006, etc.) locates at least one emergent cause for strife in the geopolitical reality of an exponentially growing China, which faces huge shortcomings in the form of pollution, joblessness, a lack of drinking water, degradation of farmland and energy shortages, but has a tremendous surplus of people. Russia has a comparative advantage, with per capita income many times higher than China’s and plenty of natural resources, but with a rapidly declining population. Likely this demographic context will result in changes of various kinds, perhaps including Chinese expansion into Russia and other Central Asian lands—and, if nothing else, in more deals for resource exchange between the two major powers that will have the appearance to some of an “anti-American alliance.” And why not, asks Tayler, who visits the future front and returns with countless character sketches to enliven an already interesting big-picture narrative. A Cossack ataman contemplating an Asian future, for instance, fervently insists that “it takes four generations for white genes to be reestablished after mixing blood, you know.” A Dagestani promises that a billion Chinese will die if they try to invade his homeland, and layabout Chinese youngsters in the unlikely desert metropolis of Ürümqi suggest that the rising generation may not be up to the task. Yet, as Tayler notes, ten years ago Ürümqi was “under construction and chaotic, all skyscrapers going up and cement dust coming down,” while today it is just one of many teeming, highly productive cities in a nation whose fortunes seem ever on the rise.

Tayler ventures at points into Colin Thubron and Robert Kaplan territory, returning with a satisfying narrative that is of considerable interest to students of contemporary events, and futurists too.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-618-79991-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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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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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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