Amiable and revealing missives from two remarkable minds.


LETTERS (2008-2011)

A genial, often riveting exchange of letters between American novelist Auster (Winter Journal, 2010, etc.) and the South African (now an Australian citizen) Nobel laureate Coetzee (Scenes from Provincial Life, 2012, etc.).

Although Coetzee, 72, is seven years older than Auster, the two writers and friends have many things in common—a fascination with sports (not always the same ones), liberal politics, a sadness about the decline of the book, a love of travel and language, admiration for their spouses and a willingness to respond thoughtfully and respectfully to issues the other correspondent raises. There are some features missing that readers will expect: an introduction explaining the genesis of their friendship and the idea for the publication; an explanation of why the letters stopped (or have they stopped?); annotations. But the bounties cancel cavils. Both acknowledge the importance of admiration in friendship, an observation that leads them into a recurring discussion about sports. Auster writes powerfully (here and elsewhere) about baseball; Coetzee enjoys tennis and writes admiringly of Roger Federer. The letters are not heavily literary. There are some discussions of Beckett, Dostoyevsky and Derrida, but nothing too cerebral. Auster muses about how critics jumped him for his portrayal of an older man’s sexual affair with a 17-year-old in Sunset Park but had little to say about the incest in his Invisible. Coetzee speculates that American poetry has declined; Auster effectively and respectfully counters. There are also quotidian concerns—travel plans, food, sleep habits, etc. Auster periodically raves about his wife, writer Siri Hustvedt, and talks a little about the writing of Winter Journal. The authors also discuss films (a passion for both), and we learn that Auster is a bit of a Luddite—he uses a typewriter and has no cellphone, and the writers exchanged many of these letters via fax machine.

Amiable and revealing missives from two remarkable minds.

Pub Date: March 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-02666-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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