THE ECSTASY OF INFLUENCE

NONFICTIONS, ETC.

Conceptual ambition, sense of purpose and a fan’s evangelical devotion distinguish this collection from the typical novelist’s gathering of nonfiction miscellany.

If this is a closet-clearing exercise by Lethem (Chronic City, 2009, etc.), his is an impressively rich closet. In addition to being a writer who blurs the distinction between genre fiction (sci-fi, detective, western) and postmodern literature (a term he questions), Lethem writes with a commitment to sharing his enthusiasm for whatever obsesses him—underdog novelists such as Paula Fox and Thomas Berger, under-acknowledged rock bands such as the Go-Betweens, seminal inspirations such as Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard. “I began writing in order to arrive into the company of those whose company meant more to me than any other: the world of books I’d found on shelves and begun to assemble on my own, and the people who’d written them, and the readers who cares as much as I did,” he writes toward the conclusion of this collection. While the results illuminate his formative influences and artistic development, they also cast considerable light on the culture at large, which is both reflected in Lethem’s work and has profoundly shaped it. His personal pantheon extends from popular music (he writes at incisive length about both Bob Dylan and James Brown) to the international literary alchemy of the late Roberto Bolaño, enlisting the reader as an accomplice in his quest. Intensifying that intimacy, he shares his complicated relationships with two college buddies, Bret Easton Ellis and Donna Tartt, who both achieved precocious literary success well before he did, and he recalls his bitter response to James Wood after the latter wrote a mixed review of Lethem’s breakthrough, Motherless Brooklyn. Inevitably a mixed bag, but with high ambitions and a strong sense of purpose.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53495-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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