Perspicacious, penetrating, and instructive.



An erudite and opinionated critic offers up a taster of tantalizing essays.

Former New Yorker editor and Knopf editor-in-chief Gottlieb (Avid Reader: A Life, 2016, etc.), now approaching 90, is still keeping his writing fingers busy in the book world. This collection of previously published essays, mostly book reviews from the New York Review of Books written over the past 10 years, is divided into six sections: Lives, Letters, Music, Dance, Movies, and Observing Dance (notices about dance performances published in the New York Observer). As a book publisher for 60 years and a Farrar, Straus and Giroux author, Gottlieb assesses Boris Kachka’s Hothouse, a history of the publisher. Although the book is a “vigorous and diverting trot…frequently slapdash and overwrought,” it’s a “valuable effort” about a press that has “maintained an amazingly consistent level of quality.” Having penned biographies of George Balanchine and Sarah Bernhardt, Gottlieb is quite adept writing about music and dance. An essay on Clive Davis, the “mogul of moguls of pop music,” easily rests beside the author’s discussions of the “maestro,” Arturo Toscanini, whom Gottlieb puts in the same category with Einstein and Picasso. Conductor Leonard Bernstein, whom Gottlieb worked with as an author, is simultaneously “legendary” and “over-the-top.” The author’s “In the Mood for Love” is a sprightly assessment of romance novels: “Its readership is vast, its satisfactions apparently limitless, its profitability incontestable. And where’s the harm?” He rescues Ivan Goncharov’s 1859 novel Oblomov, about a man who never gets out of bed, and waxes euphoric over Irishman Sebastian Barry’s “luminous” novels. Gottlieb takes on an eclectic mix of subjects: Wilkie Collins, Diana Cooper, John Wilkes Booth, Mary Astor, Ethel Merman, Dorothy Parker, Esther Williams, Lorenz Hart, Maya Plisetskaya, Frank Sinatra, the “awful” film Black Swan, Setsuko Hara, an “actress like no other,” and Thomas Wolfe, who “has gone over the cultural cliff.”

Perspicacious, penetrating, and instructive.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-21991-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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