Thought-provoking essays that offer more than mere opinion, as the author plumbs the writers’ philosophical and...



Nobel and Booker Prize winner Coetzee (The Schooldays of Jesus, 2017, etc.) offers another collection of reflective and erudite essays on a variety of poets and novelists.

Originally published as introductions to foreign translations or in the New York Review of Books, some of the author’s favorites recur: Daniel Defoe, Robert Walser, Zbigniew Herbert, Philip Roth, and Samuel Beckett, the “philosophical satirist,” whom Coetzee covers in four of the essays. While discussing Beckett’s letters and two novels—Watt, a “fable cum treatise that for long stretches manages to be hypnotically fascinating,” and Molloy, a “mysterious work, inviting interpretation and resisting it at the same time”—the author focuses on Beckett’s language, a “self-enclosed system, a labyrinth without issue, in which human beings are trapped.” An acclaimed translator himself, Coetzee is particularly interested in the translations of some authors’ works. He laments that any translation of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther that would be “true” for readers of the 1770s as well as for today’s is “an unattainable ideal.” He quibbles that Michael Hamburger’s translations of Friedrich Hölderlin’s poetry are “only intermittently…touched with divine fire.” But the “achievement is nevertheless considerable.” The essay on Patrick White, the “greatest writer Australia has produced,” confronts the dilemma faced by literary executors. Coetzee praises White’s agent Barbara Mobbs as well as Kafka’s friend Max Brod for refusing to carry out their authors’ wishes to have their writings destroyed. As Coetzee writes, “the world is a richer place now that we have [White’s] The Hanging Garden.” As a longtime advocate for animal rights, his short piece on Juan Ramón Jiménez’s tale of a donkey, Platero and I, is especially poignant. Other subjects of Coetzee’s probing eye include Flaubert, Tolstoy, Hawthorne, Heinrich Von Kleist, Antonio Di Benedetto, Les Murray, Gerald Murnane, Irène Némirovsky, Ford Madox Ford, and Hendrik Witbooi.

Thought-provoking essays that offer more than mere opinion, as the author plumbs the writers’ philosophical and psychological depths.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2391-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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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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