For Casey, the search is the thing, whether as a writer or reader. This slim but astute volume is an inducement both to read...



Not whodunit, but why and how it works.

Ask a professional how great fiction is created, and you will usually receive an answer about the importance of a good plot, descriptive language, and writing “what you know about.” Casey (English/Univ. of Maryland; The Man Who Walked Away, 2014, etc.) goes for something deeper: how do great writers create that alluring kind of bewilderment that makes literary fiction unique? “Mystery in fiction,” she writes, “means taking the reader to that land of Un—uncertainty, unfathomability, unknowing. It’s Kafka’s axe to the frozen seas of our souls. In other words, it will—and it should—mess you up.” Using a variety of compelling examples, the author shows the myriad ways mystery can seduce and conquer. Writers like Isaac Babel create a structure of innocence where readers, along with his young protagonists, reach an epiphany. Mystery can make characters come alive as we learn a character’s secrets; perhaps even more so when we don’t. As the writer Paul Yoon tells Casey, just knowing that one of his characters has an undisclosed secret may be a way of knowing him “more deeply, having caught a glimpse into something so very private.” Mystery can also pull us deep into the lives of terrible people—e.g., the protagonist of J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians—or ones, such as Merricat in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in a Castle, whom we’d best avoid. These writers know how to normalize the most brutal or absurd private worlds. There is also imagery—whether it’s poor Hulga’s wooden leg in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” or the multiplicity of windows in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”—that can transform the very environment of the story itself.

For Casey, the search is the thing, whether as a writer or reader. This slim but astute volume is an inducement both to read more deeply and to head for ever more unchartered, frozen, mysterious waters.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55597-794-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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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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