A superb read about the sufferings of a crypto-Jewish matriarch in the 17th century.




This saga of crypto-Jews (conversos) during the Inquisition in Mexico holds lessons and warnings for all.

Fine (Paris Lamb, 2015, etc.) begins her story in Mexico City in 1650, when Clara, the matriarch of the Crespin clan, is arrested and taken to the prison of the Inquisitors, where she will be held for five awful years. The tale is told alternately through the eyes of Clara and her granddaughter, Celendaria, conversos who secretly maintain Jewish traditions after becoming Christians. Clara was betrayed, but by whom? Celendaria’s father grieves (“Why do they persecute us? We follow their rules, worship their Savior, tithe at the cathedral. What do they want?”). This venal Inquisition encourages bribes, which, though usually ineffective, drain the Crespins, affluent merchants, dry. The years drag on. Celendaria becomes a woman and is betrothed to Francisco de Mendoza Rebozo. She also spies Father Miguel Lopez, a converso—or is he a true believer now?—making love to Mariel Behar in the confessional. But the Crespins and the Behars have had enough. After the wedding of Celendaria and heroic Francisco, family members plot their escape to the north. Even rumors of savage Native Americans are no match for the terrors of the Inquisition. Once again, like in the biblical Exodus, these Jews wish to escape oppression and seek freedom. Fine writes well, bringing the Crespins alive in speech and circumstance that reflect their social status as proudly prosperous (At one point, Celendaria’s mother asserts: “We must be resilient and survive as our forefathers did when they were driven from our ancient lands in Israel, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Peru”). Surely the Inquisitors are among the greatest villains in history, second only, for Jews, to Hitler. But then readers will likely realize that in the best interpretation of this horror, the Inquisitors felt that they were doing God’s will, which should give everyone pause. Fine is a serious scholar of the persecution of Sephardic Jews, and the details in this book are impressive and edifying.

A superb read about the sufferings of a crypto-Jewish matriarch in the 17th century.

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9826952-5-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: L'Image Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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