A collection that doesn’t quite live up to its promise.



Middling anthology of writing about the American West, focusing on regional identity.

Where is the West? By geographic convention, it begins at the 98th Meridian, where the rainfall shades off into scarcity and the grass gets dry. By literary convention, it’s a state of mind, a place where freedom awaits and the sky and land are big enough to engulf a puny human. Many of the contributors to this collection wrestle with one or another of these categories, though an ever-sardonic Charles Bowden puts an end to the incertitude: “So based on the evidence, the case could be made that I live in the West and therefore I am a Westerner. But this claim is bullshit.” Bowden is in good company with the likes of Charles Daniel, Denise Chávez and Jim Harrison, all of whom serve up hymns of not-uncritical praise to the region. Yet the anthology is not wholly satisfactory. One problem is that the contributors are, in the main, the usual suspects—Rick Bass, Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams and the like—who have already said elsewhere what they say here. Another, related to the first, is that these voices are overwhelmingly white (and, less overwhelmingly, academic); an anthology of this sort should be the first to assert by example and not sentiment alone that the West is a place where Anglo, Native and Hispanic cultures meet. That said, there are some excellent pieces here, including a standout essay by Jim Hepworth on growing up in a broken home among Blackfoot Indian basketball whizzes in a place where “the moonless sky above us stretched from horizon to horizon as black as the Lone Ranger’s mask, but it was also a sky filled with a billion planets and stars.” Bowden is customarily grim, but customarily right about things, while Harrison growls, nicely, “If the mountains were actually ennobling I would have noticed it by now.” Other contributors include Louise Erdrich, Antonya Nelson, C.J. Box, William Kittredge and Gary Snyder.

A collection that doesn’t quite live up to its promise.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-292-72343-6

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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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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