UNEASY RIDER

THE INTERSTATE WAY OF KNOWLEDGE

Much of this drive-through view of the Southwest is disjointed and overly opinionated, a perplexing blend of Americana, cathartic anger, and ego. From the outset, Bryan (Dogleg Madness, 1988, etc.) searches for an ever-elusive unifying theme that presumably is built on the synecdoche of the interstate highway as representative of present- day America. This works to the extent that the people he meets are a varied and industrious lot. Bryan visits a snake farm where tourists can purchase mice to throw in the pits, and he rides with Texas state troopers apprehending speeders. He spends time with casino dealers in Laughlin, Nev., and with the manager of the sludge dump in Sierra Blanca, Tex., which receives its product from New York City. Motel owners, truckers, hitchhikers, ranchers (including the proprietor of a ``no smoking'' ranch), restaurateurs—they are all here, and one admires Bryan's doggedness and benefits from his wide-ranging interests. However, an equally large segment of the book is comprised of frequently demeaning observations about Texans, Republicans, Christians, and anyone else not smart enough to have moved, like Texas-born Bryan, to New York City. For instance, people who voted for Nixon in 1960 were ``neither imaginative nor creative.'' A particularly extraneous and self-pitying, as well as unnecessarily graphic, section concerns Bryan and his wife's failed in-vitro fertilization treatment. A visit to his aged grandmother elicits a curiously cavalier reaction to her deteriorating mental state: The ``lilt and twinkle in her eye'' when she is unable to remember something from her past is ``enchanting.'' Her burial in the book's last chapter is likewise bloodless. Had Bryan stuck to his often praiseworthy descriptions of lost Texas towns or the small but meaningful pursuits of citizens on and along the interstates, this would have been a far greater pleasure to read.

Pub Date: March 31, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-41671-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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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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