An evocative glimpse of an isolated, seldom visited part of Russia, though its depiction of volatile drunks in a bleak...

RIVER OF NO REPRIEVE

DESCENDING SIBERIA’S WATERWAY OF EXILE, DEATH, AND DESTINY

After 11 years in Moscow, American journalist Tayler took a river trip through Russia’s Siberian hinterlands, encountering a punishing climate and plentiful nostalgia for the communist past.

In the early 17th century, Tayler (Angry Wind, 2005, etc.) writes, the Cossacks sailed the Lena River from Lake Baikal to the Artic Circle, annexing the land for the tsar as they went. Since then, the settlements they established have been Russian outposts: home to exiles, ethnic minorities and pioneers who sought to build the Soviet state. Tayler set out to recreate the Cossacks’ voyage in the summer of 2004, traveling 2,400 miles of the river north in a raft. He was inspired, he explains, by a desire to escape the confines of Moscow and to try to understand the people who are President Vladimir Putin’s most stalwart supporters. The trip was punishing. Mosquitos and other pests abounded. Storms whipped up huge waves that threatened to capsize the raft. The guide, a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, made it clear from the beginning that he preferred the company of Siberia’s beautiful and barren landscape to that of his employer. Tayler, on the other hand, was interested in people, and he vividly sketches his sojourns into the remote river communities. Drunken, hopeless teens danced in shacks; drunken, hopeless adults bemoaned the end of communism; Tayler heard stories of underground nuclear blasts and resulting cancers; he saw villages abandoned and left to decay. Most of the people he met voiced enthusiasm for the Soviet days, glossing over Stalin’s death camps to remember the monetary support and sense of mission they had under communism. Their enthusiasm for Putin reflected their desire for a return to this idealized past.

An evocative glimpse of an isolated, seldom visited part of Russia, though its depiction of volatile drunks in a bleak landscape does no favors for the Siberian tourist industry.

Pub Date: July 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-53909-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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