No strolls in Provence or Walter Mitty reveries; these intense pieces are for the aspiring Lawrence of Arabia. All are...

THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING 2001

The latest entry in the successful Best American series offers a tough-minded collection of 26 extreme voyages testing endurance and granting revelation.

Noting that the world has now been “visited and revisited,” editor Theroux chooses works that reflect the writers’ “independence and self sufficiency to make discoveries . . . [and] look for places that have changed, or places to visit in a new way.” The articles, he notes, also encompass current elements of travel-writing (a term that makes him uneasy), including the drift into autobiography, the experience of travel as adversity, and greater “penetration” of writers at their sites. So Gretel Ehrlich travels to Greenland to accompany the Inuit on a spring trip to hunt seal and walrus; Philip Caputo rides and walks Kenya seeking Tsavo lions; Bob Shacochis moves amidst Texas and the Turks and Caicos Islands to recall the life of a once-fearless adventurer and his spirited, now-deceased wife. These and other selections by Russell Banks, Scott Anderson et al. blend captivating stories with questions about the call away from the world; in essence, they ask what gives some people, as Shacochis says in “Something Wild in the Blood,” “the fortitude and faith to step away from convention and orthodoxy and invent [their] own life.” Another kind of response comes with Susan Minot’s piece on Ugandan child-kidnapping: a call for political action. On the whole, the essays are captivating; only occasionally is the spell broken long enough for readers to wonder why they’re climbing that mountain, and why they’re so far from home.

No strolls in Provence or Walter Mitty reveries; these intense pieces are for the aspiring Lawrence of Arabia. All are tinged with the madness of seeking danger; the best also reveal an unquenchable longing and a fervent humanity.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-11877-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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