A lack of focus, an often-cold tone and the less-than-exciting parallel narratives make this slight road memoir a sleepy...

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THE MAN WHO WOULD STOP AT NOTHING

LONG-DISTANCE MOTORCYCLING'S ENDLESS ROAD

In an odd, misguided combination of marriage memoir and stunt journalism, motorcycle enthusiast Pierson (The Place You Love Is Gone: Progress Hits Home, 2006, etc.) follows two narrative threads—the road to and from her divorce and story of an obsessive long-distance-riding group called the Iron Butt Association—on a journey to...nowhere.

While it’s a sad tale, the reporting of the author’s crumbling relationship is well-worn territory. As for the Iron Butts, the center of that thread is John Ryan, the most obsessive of the obsessive, a man who would choose his motorcycle over anything. Though Ryan is a colorful character, as a subject he’s worthy of a magazine article rather than an entire book—much of his story feels like filler. As the story jumps back and forth between anecdotes that don't quite connect, the author struggles to give the narrative context, but the book ultimately feels as if it has no anchor. Eventually, the author resorts to explaining the purported purpose of the book: “I realize, with a start, what this book is about: Death. Not motorcycling, but death. Or, rather, motorcycles as life force and death force at once: the game played so we can safely approach the end, in which one side is squashed by the other." Unfortunately, Pierson fails to meet her lofty goal; the book doesn’t adequately mine such Big Themes. While journalists such as A.J. Jacobs and Stefan Fatsis have managed to make their off-kilter passions at once charming and compelling by utilizing humor and heart, Pierson's self-indulgence and pretention make it difficult to join her on this literal and figurative journey.

A lack of focus, an often-cold tone and the less-than-exciting parallel narratives make this slight road memoir a sleepy ride.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-07904-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

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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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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