SIBERIAN DAWN

A JOURNEY ACROSS THE NEW RUSSIA

A young American’s encounters with arctic cold, violent vodka-induced drunkenness, unknown levels of radiation, and mafia-ruled hinterland cities reveal the bleak and desperate side of life in the post-Communist Soviet states. Inspired by his love of Russian culture and finding himself at loose ends in Moscow, Tayler decided in 1993 to cross the entire landmass of Russia. Naively enthusiastic, yet ill-equipped and underprepared, the young American started out on a perilous journey from the desolate byways of the Russian Far East, across Siberia and the Urals, to the Polish-Ukrainian border. The journey embodies both a personal quest and a search for the heart of Russia. Tayler explains, “I wanted to fuse my fate with the country’s in a crucible of my own making.” And a crucible it was. Against the odds of inadequate equipment, incredible coldness, unwise decisions, and the constant threat of violence in Russia’s depressed provinces, Tayler survived the solo journey. He describes his travels by bus, train, truck, and car, his fleeting friendships and sometimes violent encounters with almost uniformly desperate men and women, the astonishing changes in weather and landscape in this vast region, and the physical state of Russia’s hinterlands, including its environmental devastation—none of which is uplifting. The harrowing stories he shares about life in Russia’s desolate hinterland sharpen our understanding of Russia’s past and present with their unforgettable details: cockroaches emerging from hosts’ wallpaper and ceilings during a meal, scary confrontations with several of Russia’s drunks that lead to exchanges of words and blows, and the filth and dangers of life in polluted Chelyabinsk, the once-thriving center of the Soviet nuclear and defense industries. By the trip’s end, it’s a toss-up who is more relieved to cross the Polish border, Tayler or his reader. Graphically describes the deeply disturbing state of the “new” Russia and its demoralized citizens.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-886913-26-9

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Ruminator Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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