TRANSIT OF VENUS

TRAVELS IN THE PACIFIC

Fast on the heels of Paul Theroux's best-selling The Happy Isles of Oceania (p. 525) comes this equally polished but far more jaded view of Pacifica by English journalist Evans. While Theroux senses cosmic mysteries in the vast Pacific, Evans sees creepiness and rot. Perhaps his venture is doomed at the outset, inspired as it is by magazine photos of Peacekeeper missiles arcing over the Pacific. But travel appeals to him, albeit for reasons often left unsaid: ``The consolation of travel is the control it offers to cowards: you get up and leave; you abandon people....'' He boats into sleazy New Caledonia on the tail of a storm that blows ``with pentecostal force'' (an apt image, for Protestant missionaries swarm over these islands). There, he finds rumors of mermaids, and political strife that puts banana republics to shame. In dreary Fiji, with its villages of cinder block and tin, he meets caved-in Europeans and remarks that ``funerals are more enjoyable than weddings by a long way.'' On to New Hebrides, where ``cockroaches the size of moles swaggered across the floor'' and where he is jolted by the ``unblinking, solemn gravity of the natives'' and by kava, a local hallucinogen. With Western Samoa comes kerosene-poisoning and a noxious dose of heat, flies, and lassitude, but also beautiful women with fetching tattoos and the grave of his beloved Robert Louis Stevenson. Tonga, Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, and onwards—a roll call of sunburnt specks of dirt rife with poverty, promiscuity, religious fanaticism, and junk food. It hasn't always been this way, as Evans shows through frequent descriptions of earlier visits by Francis Drake, James Cook, Herman Melville, and the like; but, now, decay seems the order of the day. Maybe Evans should have stayed at home. We'd be the losers, though, for his mordant, Dantean travelogue offers a number of grotesque, cleverly crafted delights.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-41637-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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