Milder than fellow exile Andrei Codrescu’s The Hole in the Flag (1991), but an affecting exploration of past and present all...




A political exile returns to his homeland behind the former Iron Curtain.

And finds things as strange as ever. Essayist/novelist Manea (The Black Envelope, 1995, etc.) doesn’t really qualify as a hooligan: mild-mannered and essentially apolitical, he exhibits in these pages an aesthete’s sense of the world and of literature—and an ironic sense at that. Yet “hooligan” is what he and fellow apostates from the Romanian workers’ paradise were branded by the apparatchiks, a term of abuse made a little more pointed by the 1991 murder in Chicago of his compatriot and fellow intellectual Ioan Petru Culianu, a strange case that opened long-closed dossiers on such matters as mythology scholar Mircea Eliade’s involvement in fascist politics during WWII. A veteran of the Transnistrian camps to which Romanian Jews were deported in those days, Manea opens this memoir with an account of his reluctance to return to his homeland and look some of those matters straight in the eye. “I came out relatively clean from the dictatorship,” he writes. “I didn’t get my hands dirty.” On the streets of Bucharest and in the villages of Bukovina, however, he encounters plenty of people with dirty hands and examines them with the same scholarly detachment (which is not to say disengagement) that he casts upon his own memories of Red Pioneers’ summer camps, furtive affairs, open secrets, quotidian betrayals, and other aspects of life under totalitarianism. He may have escaped from all that, Manea writes, but the new, ostensibly democratic Romanian government keeps tabs on him and his fellow exiles all the same. Arch, literary, and self-effacing, Manea revisits the scenes of his youth, encounters “miraculous apparitions” from the past, and contents himself with the knowledge that his true home now lies elsewhere: “Yes, the Upper West Side, in Manhattan.”

Milder than fellow exile Andrei Codrescu’s The Hole in the Flag (1991), but an affecting exploration of past and present all the same.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-28256-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2003

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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