Even if the argument sometimes seems like an endless series of digressions, however, it never makes less than an...



A wide-ranging, though eccentric, tour of Alfred Hitchcock’s agreeably scary cinema.

Conrad (English/Christ Church, Oxford; Modern Times, Modern Places, 1999) will have no truck with the extensive literature already published on the Master of Suspense, which he dismisses as “pseudo-scientific” and “bogus cerebration.” Nor, evidently, does he have much patience with the division of Hitchcock’s work into discrete films from The Pleasure Garden through Family Plot. Instead of considering the films one by one, he has pulverized them all into a puree in which, for example, an excursis about the director’s preoccupation with bathrooms (in which he set scenes in The Lodger, Number Seventeen, Secret Agent, The Lady Vanishes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Spellbound, The Trouble with Harry, and Psycho) can range freely over half a dozen examples before moving on to films mysteriously without bathrooms, from The 39 Steps to Lifeboat. Although his determination to avoid earlier critics leaves Conrad spending a fair amount of time reinventing the wheel, his investigation, organized loosely around the question of how Hitchcock makes fear entertaining, yields some piquant insights, such as Hitchcock’s affinity with Surrealists like André Breton to the self-portraits he left in the fat men who peopled his films. But Conrad’s cavalier annexation of literary sources for the films to provide further examples, as if Hitchcock had created Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Robert Bloch’s Psycho as well as the films he based on them, creates an unhappy confusion of boundaries, as if he could not decide whether Hitchcock was remarkable because his films were so distinctive or because they were so exemplary. In the end, all but the largest contours of Conrad’s analysis become blurred as well, sunk beneath reams of absorbing detail.

Even if the argument sometimes seems like an endless series of digressions, however, it never makes less than an entertaining and illuminating case for the unity of Hitchcock’s half-century of films. (20 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-571-20023-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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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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