A well-written, sensitive portrayal of coming to terms with a disrupted Asian idyll.


Bamboo Secrets


This debut memoir recounts how an American woman’s planned sojourn in Japan becomes a tense bureaucratic nightmare after her husband’s drug bust.

In 1992, Miller was 51 and trying to discover herself. Following her husband, Steven Solomon, to Kyoto, where he would be researching anthropology at the university, was an easy decision. She wanted to pursue her interest in Japanese aesthetics, Zen, and playing the shakuhachi, or bamboo flute, as both music and meditation. But, she writes, “I didn’t know that our dream and my personal quest would all smash into a thousand shards, like a dropped teapot.” In January 1993, Solomon was arrested for having marijuana (taken very seriously in Japan) mailed to him from the United States, beginning an excruciating two-month anxiety dream as the Japanese legal system painstakingly investigated and made its decisions. Meanwhile, Solomon lost his job and apartment, presenting logistical hassles in finding affordable places to live that that would accept them and that complied with the system’s rigid rules. As Miller dealt with the blow to her marriage—she’d believed Solomon was clean—she seized opportunities to visit beautiful places and study Japanese arts. Her need to break the silence about this experience led to earning an MFA in creative writing and this book. Miller writes with honesty, clarity, and insight about her dilemma: “I want to love Japan in spite of all it has put me through,” a sentiment applicable to Solomon also. But characterizing Japan’s legal system and cultural imperative to save face as its “dark side” comes off as alarmist, especially because the country has much darker sides. Miller’s view of Japan is somewhat rarified, but she renders well her personal growth through speaking up, letting go, and attending to beauty. After a tense police station visit, for example, the couple decided to follow a canal—“Maybe it’ll take us home”—where Miller noticed a strong, graceful egret appearing to walk in meditation, “searching in the water for shadows.” Looking for home, occupied in mystery: a powerful image for Miller’s quest.

A well-written, sensitive portrayal of coming to terms with a disrupted Asian idyll.

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9972539-0-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: Illuminated Owl Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2016

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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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