Ostler’s erudition may occasionally lead readers into impenetrable thickets of explication, but his enthusiasm for the...

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A BIOGRAPHY OF LATIN

The cultural, religious and scholastic history of the Latin language—2,500 years of a paradise won and lost.

Polyglot Ostler—he possesses a working knowledge of 26 languages and holds degrees from Oxford in Greek, Latin, philosophy and economics, as well as a doctorate in linguistics from MIT, where he studied with Noam Chomsky—again demonstrates his considerable professorial chops, which readers first encountered in Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World (2005). The depth of the scholarship here is astonishing. He fleshes out his thesis—the history of Latin is the history of Western Europe and, indeed, of the New World—with thick strands from the histories of linguistics, warfare, religion, politics, empire, oppression and more. He describes the birth of Latin in Latium, a region in west-central Italy, its translocation to Rome and its role in the growth of the Empire (Latin became the common language of politics, the military and commerce). He offers glimpses of the lives and creations of Virgil, Horace and Sappho, and credits Cicero for giving Latin “its own corpus of philosophical writings.” Moving to the Christian era, he chronicles the adoption of the language by the early church, then examines how the German invasions affected both the Empire and its language—Latin began its metamorphosis into the Romance languages. On he progresses to the importance of Latin in medieval universities, the difficulties of translating Greek and Arabic texts into Latin, the rise of the printing press and the subsequent spread of vernacular languages. And then the long decline. Other languages—English among them—began to gain prominence as they developed formal grammars and produced literary geniuses (think Chaucer), and Latin became a more elite language, known and used principally by highly educated men. Latin retained a weakening grip on the church, until Vatican II, as well as a handful of other institutions, but its study today is limited. Still, doughty Latin-literates can purchase and peruse Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis.

Ostler’s erudition may occasionally lead readers into impenetrable thickets of explication, but his enthusiasm for the subject is infectious.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1515-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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