MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT

Gray (It’s a Slippery Slope, 1997, etc.) is an indefatigable talker. That’s how he makes his living. Here he talks some more, a lot more, as he muses his way through one recent day. It’s no Bloomsday, this day in the life of Spalding Gray. It starts slowly and works its way up to pedestrian speed. Eventually, though, he gets moving with deep thoughts about love, death, and related matters. The flowing discourse concerns home life in Sag Harbor, New York, with patient Kathie; Marissa, her daughter by an earlier liaison; their young son, Forrest; and baby Theo. There are, naturally, diverse thoughts about family life, its joys and terrors. This domestic field has been plowed before and Gray does as well with it as the next self-absorbed 56-year-old with a fear of sons. There is, to be sure, some humor. He attempts to teach his boy the semiotics of the word “shit,” follows with a riff on ATMs and thence to thoughts of bank tellers’ underwear. On and on he goes, offering vagrant comments on hand-propelled lawn mowers, his late mother’s flatulence, churches, and, perforce, sex. Like a latter-day George M. Cohan, he’s not above waving Old Glory, “the most beautiful of all the flags in the world.” Sometimes he’s an artful old philosopher and sometimes he’s Al Bundy. (Kathie calls contractors; her family name is Russo “and I figure that’s good, because so many of the contractors are of Italian-American descent.”) Gray’s shtick is to seem to let it all hang out in an excess of introspection. Sporadically, there is a universal quality. At other times, it’s a lot, a surfeit, a plenitude of unilateral conversation. While others may be ready to cry “uncle,” his many fans will consider the talk just fine. As a performed monologue, the words are probably charming and strong in the sentiment department. On paper, it’s light, light entertainment as Gray disrobes again.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-29985-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999

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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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