An up-and-down collection of essays on what a fiction writer does when he isn’t writing fiction.




A collection of what could be called literary travel criticism.

A professor of creative writing with an eclectic publishing career, LaSalle (What I Found Out About Her, 2014, etc.) has been anthologized as a travel writer (a piece from The Best Travel Writing 2010 concludes this volume) and earned praise for his award-winning fiction. Here, he explores terrain where his writing paths intersect, “traveling to a place where a document of literature I love is set and rereading the book there, to see what happens.” Written and originally published over a span of four decades, these essays find him contemplating Nathanael West in Los Angeles, experiencing the metaphysics of Borges in Buenos Aires, celebrating an obscure (in this country) Flaubert novel in Tunisia, following the alcohol-soaked ghost of Malcolm Lowry to Mexico. At one point he admits, “to be really frank, I am lost in a moment of wondering what the hell I am even doing on this trip, dodging some personal obligations back home and abandoning my writing for a few weeks; I know I’ve always used travel as a way to escape responsibility.” Yet he often obsesses over the courses he isn’t teaching and the fiction he isn’t writing while visiting locales far from his professional base of Austin, Texas, and his native Narragansett, Rhode Island. While establishing a bond, even an intimacy, with readers, he projects an air of superiority in his attitude toward better-known writers (“Richard Ford, a predictable writer who many critics tend to take too seriously”), fellow academics, younger females, and the “decidedly not-funny” Jimmy Kimmel. LaSalle exalts “the Flaubertian obsession of elevating prose itself to something close to sacred, the creation of it a visionary, semi-religious experience.” These are travel pieces (with the title essay the slightest), but they use travel mainly as a portal to literary celebration.

An up-and-down collection of essays on what a fiction writer does when he isn’t writing fiction.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938103-20-9

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Dzanc

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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