Illuminating, literate, and timely—a must-read for those interested in what’s going on inside Mexico.

ON THE PLAIN OF SNAKES

A MEXICAN JOURNEY

A veteran traveler explores our complex neighbor to the south.

Accomplished travel writer and novelist Theroux (Figures in a Landscape: People and Places, 2018, etc.) has been writing about his travels for more than 50 years. Like his previous accounts, this journey, narrated in his usual, easygoing, conversational style, includes countless lovely descriptions of Mexico’s landscapes and insights into the country’s history and literature, including Mexican magical realism. Being a naturally inquisitive guy, Theroux talks to the people he meets, everywhere and often, because “it is in the nature of travel to collect and value telling anecdotes.” This “shifty migrant” chronicles his navigation of cities, towns, and tiny villages on both side of the borderlands, a “front line that sometimes seems a war, at other times an endless game of cat and mouse.” Most Mexicans Theroux met “said urgently to me, ‘Be careful.’ ” He cites harrowing statistics of the violence that occurs near the border. “On their trip through Mexico,” he writes, “…migrants are brutalized, abducted, or forced to work on Mexican farms, as virtual slaves. In the past decade, 120,000 migrants have disappeared en route, murdered or dead and lost, succumbing to thirst or starvation.” The author also discusses NAFTA and how it turned the “Mexican side of the border into a plantation, a stable supply of cheap labor.” He writes about the thousands of gallons of water at aid stations destroyed by the border police and his encounters with Mexican police who, with a wink and a nod, accepted bribes for made-up charges. Outside Mexico City, he visited Frida Kahlo’s Blue House, a “kind of habitable sculpture.” He also experienced a Day of the Dead ceremony and drank homemade mezcal. “I had made friends on the road through the plain of snakes,” he writes, “and that had lifted my spirits.”

Illuminating, literate, and timely—a must-read for those interested in what’s going on inside Mexico.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-544-86647-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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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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