In Much Depends on Dinner (1987), Visser drew on domestic and natural history, cultural anthropology, and personal observation for a fluent, free-ranging, item-by-item discussion of the separate foods (chicken, salt, ice cream, etc.) assembled for a hypothetical simple company dinner. Here, she applies the same comparative cultural and historical approach to dining etiquette and customs. Visser offers the same mix of scattered facts from other times and cultures and wry references to ``our own'' common practices; quotations from Erasmus, Barthes, Miss Manners, and many more; and, now and then, amusing anecdotes. The result is another feast for trivia-blotters with a taste for class. You can turn to any page and pull out plums on, say, the sequence of courses (the ``plot of the meal'') here, there, and then; the mode of gathering for feasts or family dinners in Africa, Papua New Guinea, ancient Greece, or ``our own'' dining rooms; or the use of alcohol by the Iteso of Kenya and Uganda or the Newars of Katmandu. And who would not be diverted by the news that the Last Supper, famous paintings notwithstanding, was a reclining meal; that the English until the 19th century kept chamber pots for guests' convenience in or just outside their dining rooms; or that Emily Post in 1922 advised hosts unable to provide wine to set out wineglasses anyway and ``pour something pinkish or yellowish into them''? Still, without the earlier book's more substantial subject matter, it is even easier to become numbed by the sheer miscellaneous meandering: the amassing of items without argument or direction; the repetition of much familiar secondary material; the belaboring explanation of what we already know or easily understand. And isn't it past the time when merely pointing out the status connotations of everyday practices, without pressing on to any stimulating insights, is considered perceptive wit?

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-8021-1116-5

Page Count: 455

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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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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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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