CHILDREN OF THE EARTH

LITERATURE, POLITICS, AND NATIONHOOD

Shell (Comparative Literature and English/Harvard) explores the relationship of kinship to nationhood by challenging the basic assumption that we can always know the identity of our true parents. In so doing, he speaks urgently but ploddingly—and unconvincingly—about fundamental human problems. By insisting that parental ties are always in doubt—that we all could have been switched at birth, for example—Shell reassesses the concept of family as a means of analyzing Western political and social thought from antiquity to the 20th century. He contrasts the seemingly attractive motto that ``all men are brothers''—a recurrent theme in Western thought—with what he perceives to be its inevitable corollary: that those who are not my literal or figurative brothers are ``others'' or animals, not human at all, and undeserving of the rights granted to brothers. This dialectic, he contends, is the source of nationalism and other inter-group antagonisms that are the eternal scourge of Western society. A parallel argument running through the book (made with particular force in discussions of Elizabethan England and pre-Revolutionary France) holds that the metaphor of universal brotherhood has led to a idea that may lie at the source of Western anxieties about sexuality: If everyone is my sibling, then any act of sexual intercourse is incestuous. Shell spans hundreds of years, looking at, among other scenarios, the Spanish Inquisition, America's Civil War, and contemporary, bilingual Quebec. He analyzes literature from Racine to Twain and draws upon a wide body of work by sociologists, anthropologists, theologians, historians, and others to support his theories. Hugely ambitious and erudite, but repetitive and full of academic jargon. Moreover, Shell's premise about the absolute uncertainty of parenthood, while technically accurate, denies common sense—and his theory falls to take into account fully the widely accepted scientific theory of the 'selfish' gene, which dictates that genes themselves, not ideas about kinship, determine human alliances and antagonisms.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-506864-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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NUTCRACKER

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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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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