Equal amounts of cram-course pedagogy and '60s reminiscences pepper this Vietnam travelogue by feminist journalist and novelist Brownmiller (Waverly Place, 1989, etc.). In 1992, just after the removal of US travel restrictions to Vietnam, Brownmiller went there on assignment for Travel & Leisure as a simple first-time tourist; she also went to encounter and make her peace with a country she knew only from its wartime images on television, which she helped to define while working for ABC news. From Hanoi to Saigon—with stops in Danang, Hue, and Quang Tri- -Vietnam's war scars, Soviet-style economic barrenness, and vibrant Indo-Chinese heritage commingle. Her discovery of traditional culture is the most successful aspect of the journey, whether describing Vietnamese cuisine, the water puppets of Saigon, or the antique pottery of Hoi An. Her trips to the obligatory battlefields and war memorials provoke in her culture shock and ultimately incomprehension. Comparing an armaments museum in Hanoi's Lenin Park to a recent antiwar exhibition at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, she pronounces the former more powerful art but is surprised by her guide's bitterness at the relics of a costly war machine in a country excluded from its neighbors' modernized prosperity. International businesspeople in restored French hotels, thriving hawkers of shoddy goods, and ecotourists visiting a bird sanctuary near the Cambodian border are all hopeful signs of emergence from the postwar limbo. Brownmiller's attempts to understand the Vietnamese experience of the war and current sentiments, however, are muddled by her own self-absorbed guilty flashbacks. In one egregious instance, as she leaves the Khe Sanh battlefield, she starts singing the sardonic ``Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag'' of Woodstock in front of her guides, who in turn strike up with a patriotic Vietnamese anthem. Although passable as postcard travel writing, Seeing Vietnam is more hopeful traveling than arrival at an understanding of a country's painful history and problematic future. ($25,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: May 18, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-019049-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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


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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