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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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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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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