An often beautifully written and intellectually sensitive reminiscence.

READ REVIEW

3,001 ARABIAN DAYS

GROWING UP IN AN AMERICAN OIL CAMP IN SAUDI ARABIA (1953-1962)

An American man recalls a portion of his youth in Saudi Arabia in this debut memoir. 

Snedeker first moved with his parents to the Middle Eastern country in 1953, when he was only 3 years old. His father, Albert Coleman Snedeker, worked for the Arabian American Oil Company, which transferred him from their New York City offices. The author spent a considerable stretch of his most impressionable years in Saudi Arabia, until 1962, when he was 11. While there, he lived in Dhahran, which, he says, “still resembled a glorified roustabout oil camp,” but it also provided all the quotidian amenities of Western living, including “everything a normal, aggressively self-centered youngster might need or desire.” At the time, Saudi Arabia was still a fledgling nation in many ways, and it wasn’t unusual for Americans to go there in search of jobs and opportunities—a trend that eventually resulted in “a kind of American colonial presence” and an often cloistered expatriate community. Still, the author got an unusual peek into a markedly different culture from his own. For example, at one point, he tells of how an 11-year-old playmate anxiously revealed to him that she’d been promised in marriage to a man 20 years her senior. Snedeker discusses his own family at great length, as well, painting portraits of his strict but “sunny” father; his beautiful mother, who could be “remote” and expressed a “wounded innocence”; and his two older siblings, Mike and Kathy. As an adult, Snedecker would twice return to Saudi Arabia to live, and he still sees it as a kind of second homeland. The author lucidly and often poetically conveys his remembrances in a series of brief, impressionistic anecdotes that reflect the gossamer quality of youthful recollection: “Just random gauzy images, glimpses of fleeting emotion, stories with half-finished sentences despite having been retold ad infinitum over the dining table throughout my childhood, and unconscious embellishments slapped on as afterthoughts from my id.” His commentary is remarkably insightful, and he has a gimlet eye for nuanced portraiture. But although he astutely observes Saudi Arabia’s cultural and political climate, his attention is more typically drawn to the personal. Sometimes, these spheres overlap; for example, he writes how he was deeply affected by the suicide of a neighbor’s house servant—a grim event that heightened his sympathy for the vulnerable members of a studiously invisible profession. It’s not immediately clear, though, that Snedeker’s memoir will find a very wide audience beyond his loved ones and friends. As thoughtful and elegantly written as it is, its real focus isn’t Saudi Arabia, per se, but his family; their concerns and experiences form the center of the book. Also, one wishes that the memoir paid more attention to the author’s adult residency in the region—a time that he might have been able to remember, and appraise politically, with greater clarity and rigor. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyably stimulating read that also features marvelous black-and-white photographs. 

An often beautifully written and intellectually sensitive reminiscence.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73223-950-0

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Station Square Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

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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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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