Whether the book can remedy that situation is unknown, as well, but as informed opinion, it’s very satisfying.



Slender character study of “one of the outstanding monsters civilization has yet produced.”

Noted historian and biographer Johnson (Mozart: A Life, 2013, etc.) should not be expected to write anything but a condemnation of the Soviet dictator, and so he has—not that Stalin has many defenders these days and certainly not among the intelligentsia. However, the author finds a few kind things to say: Stalin was an accomplished letter writer and voracious reader whose personal library encompassed 20,000 volumes, and he could be charming when he wished. Even so, Stalin was, of course, not a good man: His wife killed herself, a son drank himself to death, a daughter defected to the West, and countless millions of Soviet citizens and their neighbors died. Stalin would doubtless call those people “problems,” for which, Johnson writes, he had a formula: “These were problem men, and death solves the problem. No men, no problem.” Like all tyrants, Stalin was afraid of his own shadow: Even as fully half a million Soviets were devoted to serving as his guard, toward the end of his life, despising the “Jewish doctors” who surrounded him, he ate little but hard-boiled eggs with the thought that they were one of the few foods that could not be poisoned. He also succeeded in creating “a society in which everyone was afraid,” from the lowliest street-sweeper to his closest lieutenant. A monster indeed and one with whom history has yet to fully reckon, a task that this too-brief book can only begin to address. Johnson writes that his impetus for writing this short study of Stalin is that “among the young, he is insufficiently known.”

Whether the book can remedy that situation is unknown, as well, but as informed opinion, it’s very satisfying.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014


Page Count: 160

Publisher: Amazon/New Harvest

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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