In this light and enjoyable collection of previously published essays, the peripatetic Millman visits some of the more remote precincts on the planet and reports on encounters both exotic and bizarre. Since Millman (who writes for National Geographic and other magazines) likes to go where others haven—t been or don—t want to go, most of his writings here originate from far-flung islands. Thus, he describes the slow-paced life of Tonga islanders, with a copy of Maugham in hand explores the Bandan spice islands, tours ancient ruins and imbibes a potent brew with the natives in Micronesia, and is attacked by one of the island’s ghosts in Western Samoa. Some of Millman’s better episodes take place on lesser-known islands off North America, including the forest-clad, lightly populated Anticosti in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, the Queen Charlotte Islands off British Columbia, and Honduras’s English-speaking Bay Islands. Islands or not, some places from which Millman reports lie entirely off the tourist map. Abjuring seal eye, he dines on boiled walrus and seal brisket with Eskimos north of Hudson Bay; holds an incredibly unpronounceable conversation with the aid of an Inuit dictionary on a kayak stopover on the Labrador coast; and in the most memorable pieces accidentally invites himself to dinner at the home of an impoverished Ecuadoran. The eponymous adventure into the depths of the Ecuadoran Amazon, in company of an anthropologist and ethnobotanist, has Millman slogging through jungle, jumping away from snakes, being eaten by ants, and finally, at the camp of a medicine man, defending his circumcision. There are other quirky vignettes here such as a trip to the car-less isle of Sark and Millman’s discovery, right on the Massachusetts coast, of the carcass of a rare giant squid. Taken together, this is rather a hodgepodge of experiences that don’t quite fit together, but for the uncritical arm-chair traveler these essays are a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-57129-055-9

Page Count: 183

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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 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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