In a veddy, veddy British memoir steeped in the rhetoric of the early Cold War, a mountaineer on the first Welsh-Himalayan expedition in 1955 is captured for spying on the Communist Chinese occupiers of Tibet. Charged with being a ``Western Fascist Lackey Imperialist Running Dog'' by an incredibly inept but brutal assortment of Chinese interrogators, Wignall, a career explorer and marine archaeologist, seized along with another stouthearted Englishman and a young Nepalese, refused to confess to spying for the CIA. In fact, Wignall was recruited by Indian military officials to gather information on Chinese troop build-ups (though his mission was not known to Prime Minister Nehru's government, which had acquiesced to Chinese sovereignty over Tibet). The trio were confined to unheated cells on starvation rations for three months, during which time Wignall managed to keep a diary—secreted in his air mattress—not only detailing his tribulations but also jotting down information on Chinese military intentions in the region; during periods of solitary confinement, Wignall communicated with his companions by singing messages to the tunes of English dance-hall songs. His captors never caught on to Wignall's dodges. Although frequently threatened with either immediate execution or long-term imprisonment, Wignall doled out laughably erroneous intelligence that was eagerly lapped up by his interlocutors. Finally bowing to international pressure for their release, the Chinese allowed the men to return to Nepal, but only by the most treacherous route, never before attempted in winter, with scarcely any provisions. Even fervent Anglophiles might quail at Wignall's sometimes clichÇ-laden prose (replete with ``sticky wickets'' and ``stiff upper lips''), and the narrative's unabashed political and social chauvinism seems creakily old-fashioned. But Wignall's story is a fascinating time capsule, with some top-notch adventure writing, and his convictions about Communist Chinese intentions were later borne out by that nation's invasion of India. (maps; 16 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 3, 1997

ISBN: 1-55821-558-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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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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