``A'' is for ``Arbitrary'' in this abecedarian agglomeration of 26 (A to Z) occasionally amusing attacks on assorted aggravations. From talk radio to the free-form griping so prevalent on the Internet to numerous bestselling jolly jeremiads, America seems increasingly to be dominated by a strangely passive culture of complaint. We're all as mad as hell, but we're not going to do anything about it. Like many of our modern complainers, Steinberg (Complete and Utter Failure, 1994, etc.) is perfectly content to cavil and kvetch, diagnosing all manner of societal ills from ``Advertising'' to ``Zealots.'' But when it comes to remedies, he has painfully little to offer. Satire used to be a healing art, a savage cure for grave indignities. Now, as happens here, it is reduced to empty angst. Satire is also supposed to be funny, but except for a few distant lightning flashes of wit such as a terza rima parody of Dante, Steinberg usually rises no further than the level of affable drolleries. He also beats a stableful of dead horses. From ``Bureaucracy'' to ``Elvis'' to ``McDonalds'' to ``Politicians,'' he rushes in where no one fears to tread, rehashing the same old comic platitudes: McDonalds has ``greasy, lukewarm burgers''; ``the first aspect of families which makes them so annoying is that you are stuck with them.'' Of all the letters of the alphabet, Steinberg seems to treasure ``I'' far above the rest. No matter the subject, he invariably manages to twist it back to himself. So we are treated to extended digressions on his weight, his life as a reporter, his wife and child, his parents. Steinberg does have a few shrewd perceptions, some of them original, and if he'd written in Hawaiian—with its twelve-letter alphabet—they might have been enough to flesh out a satisfying rant.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-48171-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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