Full of unexpected linkages and brightly written, this is an absorbing tour of the 20th century.

STRANGER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE

AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY OF THE 20TH CENTURY

British quiz-show scripter Higgs (The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds, 2013, etc.) offers an idiosyncratic, always-provocative view of an era that many people would just as soon forget.

Yes, one plus one equals two. But how do we know? In part, it’s thanks to Bertrand Russell, who, on the evening that the 19th century turned into the 20th, scratched out a theorem “to prove beyond argument that 1 + 1 = 2 was not an arbitrary assertion, but a fundamental truth.” It didn’t quite work out, but within months, Albert Einstein would be reshaping mathematics, Sigmund Freud would be rewriting the rules of the mind, and the old verities would be overturned and overthrown one by one. The 20th century was a time of destruction, creative and otherwise; not for nothing does Higgs use a statement from Keith Richards as the tag line for his book: “We needed to do what we wanted to do.” From that declaration of independence, the author sketches out storylines that embrace art, culture, and commerce over a period that feeds directly into our own—and our own is strange enough, with respect to his title, as he observes when he notes that a recent brush with war in North Korea involved not just states, but also corporations, and foremost among them an entertainment corporation at that. “Strange,” in Higgs’ vocabulary, includes the domains of deviance and oddness but also a randomness that may not be entirely random. As he notes early on, the anarchist who inspired Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent may have had a perfectly rational reason for choosing a seemingly irrational target. While there is very little in this book that literate readers won’t have encountered elsewhere, Higgs crafts of disparate facts and anecdotes a story all his own.

Full of unexpected linkages and brightly written, this is an absorbing tour of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7710-3847-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more