EMBATTLED SELVES

AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE NATURE OF IDENTITY THROUGH ORAL HISTORIES OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS

A dramatic exploration of varying degrees of Jewish identity espoused, concealed, or denied by 15 Holocaust survivors during and after the war. Jacobson, a writer and editor in Washington DC, interviewed more than 280 Holocaust survivors from several countries. The oral histories are 90% narration, broken only occasionally by editorial additions for clarity. Dutchman Maurits Hirsch survived by assuming the identity of a Christian, becoming the mayor of a small town in the process. While he was a dutiful civil servant for the Nazis, he actively assisted the underground and later was able to return to the observant Judaism he had practiced before the war. German Gabriel Ritter, on the other hand, abandoned the religion of his boyhood after acting so well as an Aryan for several years that he ``actually felt like a non-Jew.'' Ritter later went on to a career on the stage. Rev. David Kornbluth of Holland was, even before the war, a devout Hebrew-Christian, and he remained one, confusing everyone but himself. Czech Hilda Dujardin had every right to call herself an Aryan, having but one Jewish grandfather, yet she volunteered to have the life-threatening ``J'' stamped on her ID card, as this was a ``time to take my stand as a Jew.'' Frenchman Etienne Lenoir, however, found it a ``heavy burden to be bound to people [Jews] with whom [he] had no bonds.'' Also trapped in his Jewish body is a Romanian named Romulus, whose circumcised penis nearly kept him from earning the handsome German auxiliary uniform he needed to survive. But only by displaying this same mark did he avoid execution by liberating Russians who didn't believe he was a Jew in disguise. The author guides us in analyzing patterns and changes in the narrators' journeys into the self, but he doesn't interfere with our own interactions with these remarkable lives. This poignant and provocative book goes beyond its historical setting to get to the heart of why people do or don't identify with ethnic, national, or religious groups.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-87113-571-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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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