A moving work of memory—focusing on two sisters’ wartime struggles—that helps bridge the wide gulf between childhood and...

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Facing the Shards

A woman looks back on growing up in foster homes in England during World War II.

In this memoir, Mickelson (Our Sons Were Labeled Behavior Disordered: Here Is the Story of Our Lives, 2000) recounts her childhood. Born to a working-class Jewish couple in London, she and her sister, Viv, were moved to the countryside with other children to avoid German bombing. The sisters encountered kindness but also cruelty and anti-Semitism in their foster homes. Their first stay, with a good-natured vicar and his wife, ended abruptly when the vicar suffered a stroke. After spending six weeks across the street in the overcrowded Short residence, the girls moved to another foster home but had to leave when Mickelson contracted scarlet fever. Placed with a couple named the Canns, the sisters were treated like family members until one day they discovered Ma Cann dead in bed. Frightened by their next set of elderly foster parents, they ran away. After their billeting officer caught up with them, they stayed with a family whose mother hit and yelled at them, hollering, “That’s enough, you little kike!” at Mickelson when she wouldn’t eat bubble and squeak that “smelt like manure.” Following her expulsion from school, Viv returned to her parents. Mickelson eventually followed. But the sisters reunited only to have their mother die suddenly. Pondering anti-Semitism and their faith, Viv concluded: “Accept the fact that you’re a Jew and that everyone hates you.” Mickelson has written a stirring account of her childhood. The book is especially poignant because it’s written from the viewpoint of a child who can’t understand the purportedly rational adult world and grown-ups’ conceits and prejudices. The author’s particularly adept at description, whether reminiscing about eating wild mushrooms that “smelled of the fields and the sun” or the many characters who people this memoir, such as her sex-starved spinster Aunt Mimi, who wore a see-through pink organdy skirt, made lascivious remarks about the men around her, and ended up in a psychiatric facility. Capturing the quirks, kindness, and cruelty of her foster families, Mickelson delivers a sadly realistic personal account of life in England during the war and of the anti-Semitism that pervaded that country even as it fought Nazi Germany.

A moving work of memory—focusing on two sisters’ wartime struggles—that helps bridge the wide gulf between childhood and adulthood.

Pub Date: June 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9891634-7-7

Page Count: 190

Publisher: FYD Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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