A pleasant and chatty odyssey through northern Spain and the memories of a thoughtful wayfarer.

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TWO MILLION STEPS

BAND-AIDS, COCKTAILS, AND FINDING PEACE ALONG SPAIN'S CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

A debut memoir recounts a 500-mile journey of self-discovery in the footsteps of St. James the Greater.

One man’s struggle with—and solution to—the depression that dogged him is the subject of DeVaney’s book, the chronicle of a six-week pilgrimage to visit relics of the patron saint of Spaniards. A Roman Catholic from the cradle with a fondness for European adventures, the author decided on a walk along Spain’s Camino de Santiago after being moved by Emilio Estevez’s depiction of such a trek in his film The Way. DeVaney’s odyssey began in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Not all of his fellow travelers looked friendly at first glance, but the author soon came to understand the “pilgrim glare,” made up of “pain from the day’s walk and uncertainty regarding where you are and where you would be staying that evening.” A good sport throughout it all, DeVaney notes but does not linger on the hard beds, mediocre food, and long days of muddy hiking in the rain. He found great pleasure in the companionship of the scores of fellow explorers he dined with, walked alongside, and slept among, but, even more, he treasured his time alone. The author met actors, journalists, retired stockbrokers, and a cellist with a documentary film crew in tow. As he wandered on foot, he reflected on some of the more amusing (and, occasionally, heartbreaking) stories of his years as an altar boy, police officer, and realtor. DeVaney is a solid researcher and well-informed traveler, providing brief and engaging histories of the places he visited (Hemingway’s escapades in Pamplona; El Cid’s exploits in Burgos). Indeed, there is little casual readers might want to learn about such a pilgrimage that the author fails to skillfully relate. He clearly took meticulous notes along the way, and he incorporates them here with care. DeVaney vividly recounts that the trip lived up to its spiritual promise, offering time for him to contemplate the meaning of his life and the multitude of small blessings he read as “winks” from God (“I would often look up at the sky and wink back as a big thank-you”).

A pleasant and chatty odyssey through northern Spain and the memories of a thoughtful wayfarer.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-974670-81-9

Page Count: 197

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

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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