GOING TO THE TERRITORY

In sonorous, often autobiographical terms, these essays (reprinted from speeches and articles originally published between 1963-83) survey the role of the artist in society, the role of society in fiction, and the relationship of black cultural values to American myths and the American dream. The tone is judicious throughout, though Ellison remains very much a spokesman for his own generation—a group for whom slavery was a memory as immediate as memories of grandparents. The essays are often rooted in recollections of the 1930's—his years as a music student at Tuskegee and, somewhat later, as an ambivalent New Yorker committing himself to a literary life ("the writing of novels is the damndest thing I ever got into"). There is no apparent theory or method here—just a meticulous marshalling of memories, facts, and measured conclusions. One of the strongest essays is a tribute to Richard Wright, whom Ellison decided to meet after reading a poem by Wright while still at Tuskegee. Visiting New York at the same time that Wright was transferred from Chicago to New York (as editor of the magazine New Challenge and Harlem bureau reporter for The Daily Worker), Ellison not only got to know this uncompromising, troubled genius, but was one of the few to read Native Son in manuscript: "I didn't know what to think of it except that it was wonderful. I was not responding critically. After all, how many of you have had the privilege of reading a powerful novel as it was, literally, ripped off the typewriter?" Ellison later developed critical reservations about ideological bias in Wright's fiction, but the essay expresses them without detracting from Wright's enormous achievement. Curiously, another very fine essay is on a writer who must be the antipode of Wright—the novelist Erskine Caldwell. Ellison is no ideologue. Indeed, some of the reprinted speeches might have been better edited to remove glowing references to then-reigning presidents (including Richard Nixon). These flattering comments were probably graceful in context but out of context sound vaguely sycophantic. It's the only awkwardness in an otherwise magisterial performance.

Pub Date: July 23, 1986

ISBN: 0679760016

Page Count: 325

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1986

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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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