SMOKE AND MIRRORS

VIOLENCE, TELEVISION, AND OTHER AMERICAN CULTURES

A sometimes stirring but numbingly overargued and long-winded defense of television. As it has expanded from its first lonely trinity of networks to the much-promised 500 channels, television has fallen into increasing disrepute. Quite a change, as New York magazine TV critic, and former New York Times book critic, Leonard (Private Lives in the Imperial City, 1979, etc.) carefully details, from the carefree pioneer days, when TV was almost unanimously welcomed into the national culture. Now it is held responsible for all manner of societal ills; politicians decry programmed sex and violence; V- chips are in the offing; and even the notion of a national culture has broken down. But as Leonard copiously argues (long past the point of convincing), the boob tube is not as bad as it's cracked up to be: ``A medium capable of China Beach, M*A*S*H, St. Elsewhere, Northern Exposure, Homicide, and The X-Files has less to be ashamed of than many of its critics do, and most of its competition.'' Then, just to drive his point home, Leonard looks for the good in every type of programming TV has to offer. From mysteries to movies of the week to talk shows to medical dramas, Leonard draws a madly elaborate portrait of a medium deeply and positively engaged with the issues and circumstances of our lives: ``How is it . . . that our politics and culture got so mean while television was asking us night after night to be nicer to women, children, minorities, immigrants, poor people, and strangers?'' But even Leonard's rousing, acerbic style can't pardon his excesses: 40-plus pages on police shows, much of it recapitulation of plots and characters, 30 pages on shows about AIDS—he just keeps going, and going, and going.

Pub Date: March 13, 1997

ISBN: 1-56584-226-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

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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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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