HAPPY ALCHEMY

ON THE PLEASURES OF MUSIC AND THE THEATRE

On the evidence of his immense legacy in print, the late novelist Davies was a man of profound artistic appetite; this, the second posthumous collection of his criticism, shares the exuberant and casual erudition of the first (The Merry Heart, 1997). The material here, most of it previously unpublished, was culled by the author’s wife and daughter from his vast archive of speeches, interviews, articles, and errata, including excerpts from the copious diaries he kept throughout his life. Though the majority of pieces deal with the theater, Davies, like George Bernard Shaw, with whom he enjoyed much fruitful contact over the years, cultivated a dynamic relationship to music, and the ruminations on offer here attest to the depth of his engagement. Of Verdi’s Rigoletto and distaste for fine verse that would distract from his music, he provocatively notes that “the inferiority of what he made his librettists produce from the bleeding ruins of Macbeth and Othello is proof of his musical genius, but certainly not of his literary taste,” praising the crudity of its melodrama as essential to the composer’s intent. Elsewhere we encounter subtle observations on the psychology of folk music, the performance style of renowned pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch, for whose daughter the author held a deep affection, even a musical ghost story that Davies wrote for the Young People’s Theatre in Toronto. His remarkably droll humor is on display here, most notably in a letter, from fictional “necromantic suppliers” friars Bacon and Bungay, to Tanya Moiseiwitsch, director of the Stratford Festival Theatre in Davies’s native Canada, offering to sell the eclectic ingredients necessary to perform the famous witches’ scene in Macbeth, part of which was omitted during the festival’s 1962 production of that play. Lovingly collected, these scatterings of Davies’s singular talent are typically abundant and a welcome addition to a corpus like no other in contemporary literature.

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88019-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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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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IN MY PLACE

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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