Lively, thoughtful, and a big help in elucidating bewildering struggles in faraway mountains.



A satisfying blend of history and travel memoir, set in the tortured, contested landscapes of the Caucasus Mountains.

English novelist Griffin (The House of Sight and Shadow, 2001, etc.) is a devotee of such wild places as Chechnya, Armenia, and Georgia. Why he is attracted to these venues we never quite learn, but his quest has an interesting basis: Griffin travels into the Caucasus to try to “measure the effect one man can have on his region’s history 150 years after his death,” the man in question being the anti-Russian cleric and political leader Imam Shamil, who made life difficult for the Tsar’s empire-builders and provides inspiration for nationalists today. That quest provides a useful thread to hold together this sometimes madcap narrative as Griffin travels from one dreary Stalinist-era city, one snow-shrouded mountain pass to another, gauging the memory of Shamil and, more important, the spirit of resistance that holds Chechens, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and other denizens of the mountains so firm in their hatred of all things Russian save rubles and vodka. There are plenty of reasons for these people to dislike their Russian neighbors. The Muslim Chechens, for instance, were deported en masse into Siberia and Kazakhstan by Stalin, who claimed they were conspiring with the Nazis. They were permitted to return only in 1957, a quarter of their number lost in exile. By the time rebellion flamed into war in 1994, writes Griffin, “Many Russians could not place Chechnya on a map, yet the Chechens had forgotten nothing about Russia.” Today the Russian army is busily destroying every building in the land capable of sheltering a sniper (that is to say, every building in the land). And so it goes, the only thing dividing the Chechens in their unified hatred of Russians being the new class system emerging from the thriving black market—enough, one might think, to scare away the equally tenacious Russians.

Lively, thoughtful, and a big help in elucidating bewildering struggles in faraway mountains.

Pub Date: March 21, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-30853-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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