A fresh, if challenging, perspective on a neglected historical topic.

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MANEUVER AND BATTLE IN THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION

A REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS

The final part of Janssens’ (Maneuver and Battle in the Mexican Revolution: A Revolution in Military Affairs, Volume 2, 2016, etc.) comprehensive and iconoclastically revisionist interpretation of the Mexican Revolutionary War.

As 1914 approached, Mexican President Victoriano Huerta’s tyranny—and the Federal Army that protected it—was in dire condition. Still, the Federalists had a deeply ingrained sense of superiority to the citizen army behind the Constitutionalist uprising. Huerta had no shortage of advantages militarily and economically; his regime was widely acknowledged by the world’s major powers, so the success of the Constitutionalists seemed inexplicable. In this third installment of a panoramic trilogy, Janssens argues that the Federalists, expecting a quick triumph, didn’t consider a grand, unifying strategy necessary, so they never devised one. Also, their rigid hierarchy prevented adequate recruitment of quality soldiers, forcing them to amass an army of “conscripts and criminals.” Furthermore, the officer corps was plagued by corruption, the top leadership lacked real vision, and troop morale was perpetually low. By contrast, the Constitutionalists waged war with enthusiastic volunteers who were committed to their cause in an egalitarian army that issued promotions based on merit. As in the first two volumes, Janssens nearly synoptically assesses the historical record, considering not only tactical models, but also the sociocultural ramifications of the Constitutionalists’ victory. In his view, a newly democratic sense of national pride insulated Mexico from unfortunate experiments in militarism that plagued so much of Latin America in the 20th century. Although the author already made many of his concluding points articulately in preceding volumes, this one is particularly strong and impressively original on the impact of American intervention, particularly regarding seesawing embargoes. Taken as a whole, the author’s contribution to the study of the war—and Mexican history in general—is astonishingly thorough. However, despite its generally straightforward prose, this book and its predecessors would be a poor introduction to the subject for the novice due to its mesmeric detail and argumentative complexity. However, Jannsens’ contribution certainly deserves an audience in the academic community.

A fresh, if challenging, perspective on a neglected historical topic. 

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9964789-2-2

Page Count: 550

Publisher: Revolution Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

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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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