A well-written memoir that examines the author’s personal and political struggles in academia and the world at large.


Oliver's Travels


A compelling memoir set against the backdrop of major historical events of the mid-20th century.

To say that Lee’s formative years were distinctive is an understatement. Born to a Chinese father and a German mother, he lived in China, Germany, Mauritius and Iran before immigrating to the United States in 1946. As might be expected, the first chapter of his book shows his remarkable adaptability as he negotiates multiple languages, cultures and educational systems. Even after he reaches the United States, his experiences as a young man span many locations: high school in New York City, an undergraduate career at Harvard, summer employment in New Hampshire, graduate school in Baltimore and Chicago, and an early teaching career at the University of Maryland. A central theme of academic freedom emerges in a chapter titled “Witnessing Witch Hunt in Washington,” as several of Lee’s professors at Johns Hopkins face professional consequences for their beliefs and actions. A decade later, Lee himself is investigated by the FBI while working as a Far Eastern Analyst in the Foreign Affairs Division of the Library of Congress. This setback foreshadows what is to come and leads Lee in 1963 to the University of Hawaii, where the bulk of the memoir takes place. As America’s involvement in Vietnam escalates and the anti-war movement gathers strength, questions about Lee’s role as adviser to the Student Partisan Alliance, a radical activist organization, lead the administration to rescind its recommendation to grant Lee tenure. Throughout the book, but particularly in these two extensive chapters, Lee cleverly and effectively weaves his personal history together with the political happenings on campus, in the nation and abroad. He also provides succinct background information for readers who may be unfamiliar with the era’s events and includes photographs, documents and articles to support the text. The memoir concludes with the resolution of the tenure issue and the author’s trip to parts of Asia (including Saigon) in 1969, as well as further protest actions in 1970. However, because Lee only recounts the first half of his life in this volume, readers will sense that there is much more to tell.

A well-written memoir that examines the author’s personal and political struggles in academia and the world at large.

Pub Date: March 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615822389

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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