ON GRIEF AND REASON

ESSAYS

In the best of these recent essays, Nobelist Brodsky achieves a unique synthesis of philosophical acumen and literary craftsmanship: considering the exigencies of exile together with those of poetry, reflecting on ethics and aesthetics. Like Less Than One (1986), Brodsky's previous collection of prose, this volume opens with a collage of memories from the author's youth in Leningrad. The theme this time, however, is intimations of America: radio transmissions, lovingly preserved lend-lease remnants (Brodsky focuses on the cult of empty meat tins), and exotic imports like the RCA records, with their famous dog-at-the-gramophone label, that Brodsky's father owned. The mode of reverie that Brodsky employs in this piece serves him well elsewhere in the volume. It reappears in a pastiche of travel dreams and in impassioned reflections on a Soviet stamp honoring British double agent Kim Philby. Too often, however, Brodsky takes on an expository tone that clashes with the essentially elliptical quality of his best insights. Two commencement addresses find him at his best and worst. Whereas Brodsky offers Dartmouth graduates wise words on the unlikely topic of boredom's importance, an audience at Ann Arbor, Mich., receives a hodgepodge of bromides like ``try not to set too much store by politicians.'' Other low points include an aimless account of a decadent writer's junket to Rio and a sententious open letter to V†clav Havel. But a sterling appreciation of Thomas Hardy's subtle poetry more than compensates. Much of Brodsky's best commentary on modern poetry and politics comes indirectly, in imaginative essays devoted to classical figures: Clio, the Muse of history; Horace, the Roman man of letters; and Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor. Brodsky repeatedly cites Frost's line: ``The best way out is always through.'' At his most successful, however, he seems to be following another adage: Emily Dickinson's advice to ``tell all the Truth but tell it slant.''

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-23415-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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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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