A well-researched, vibrant primer on the history of a largely overlooked country.

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To Reach the Sea

THE CREATION OF BOLIVIA AND ITS EXTRAORDINARY STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE

An ambitious book about Bolivia chronicles the nation’s rise and fall.

Born and raised in Spain by British parents, Fulford (Last Plane to Cochabamba: An Extraordinary Journey to the Five Corners of Bolivia, 2014, etc.) traveled extensively and became fascinated with Bolivia, “among the least known and least understood” of Latin American nations. Rather than writing a complete history of the country, he attempts to answer two questions: how the Charcas Empire (present-day Bolivia) became so large and powerful in its colonial days, and how it lost half its land and much of its wealth and prestige after declaring independence. Fulford starts, briefly, with pre-Incan Indians and subsequent conquests by the Inca and Spanish empires. The discovery of a huge lode of silver changed the course of history, Fulford writes, stimulating more exploration, settlement, and conflict with Indians and neighboring countries. Opening a route to ship silver to Spain, Bolivia fed Spanish coffers for three centuries until the ore became scarce. Neighboring countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile vied with Bolivia for land, resources, and trade routes, and battled over borders. In 1825, Bolivia declared independence following a 16-year war between republicans and royalists, but its neighbors’ expansionary efforts continued. The nation lost land and resources, often because corrupt Bolivian leaders handed them over to other countries for, the author writes, “a handful of dollars and a trainload of promises.” Fulford creates a useful sketch of this overlooked and landlocked nation, spicing it with lively battle descriptions and colorful cameos of historical figures, such as Lt. Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett, an English adventurer who disappeared mysteriously with his son after crossing the Rio Paratinga in 1925. Many of Fulford’s sentences begin with the qualifier “unfortunately,” and the modern history of this resource-rich but cash-poor country indeed seems to have been a series of unfortunate events. Some of the well-written chapters are too short to fully explain the multitude of conflicts and personalities. But Fulford succeeds in explaining how Bolivia lost much of its wealth and power, although he doesn’t offer deep insights into the more difficult question of why. Maps help chart the country’s evolution through the centuries, but the addition of an index would have been helpful.

A well-researched, vibrant primer on the history of a largely overlooked country.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9831872-4-0

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Astoria Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2015

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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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