Informed and sympathetic portrait of a genius struggling to complete his life’s work, no matter what.

PROUST AT THE MAJESTIC

THE LAST DAYS OF THE AUTHOR WHOSE BOOK CHANGED PARIS

An admiring, even loving, look at the dying Marcel Proust’s final six months, with many glances backward (and sometimes askance) at the novelist’s family and friends.

British historian Davenport-Hines (The Pursuit of Oblivion, 2002, etc.) begins with a terrific set piece: a description of the lavish party at the Majestic Hotel in Paris arranged on May 18, 1922, by Violet and Sydney Schiff, to honor the Ballets Russes’ first public performance of Le Renard. The guest list included many of the artistic geniuses of the early 20th century, including Igor Stravinsky (the ballet’s composer), Serge Diaghilev (the dance company’s impresario), James Joyce, Pablo Picasso and the late-arriving Proust. (The Schiffs get their own chapter later, in which they are chided for their sometimes unwelcome intrusions on the writer in his last days.) Chapter Two offers a quick look at Proust’s family and childhood. In 1908, the author tells us, the 37-year-old author settled on the structure of his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, the multi-volume work that would consume him until his last breaths in that famous bedroom with the cork-lined walls. There the sickly Proust lay writing and suffering and adhering to one of earth’s oddest diets: cold beer, café au lait, ice cream and occasional injections of adrenaline. Some interesting folks populate these pages, among them Jean Cocteau and Edith Wharton (an early advocate of Proust’s work). Davenport-Hines closely examines Proust’s fascination with the upper reaches of society and his views on sex, crediting Lost Time for opening world literature to unconventional sexual behavior. The author marvels, too, at Proust’s reputation in his beloved Paris. His books sold briskly, and celebrity quickly followed publication of the first volume. A final chapter details the writer’s death on Nov. 18, 1922, his funeral and burial.

Informed and sympathetic portrait of a genius struggling to complete his life’s work, no matter what.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58234-471-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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