An enjoyable and good-hearted romp, despite low stakes and some prosaism.




A seasoned globe-trotter’s travel memoir of her journey down the African continent, spanning 10 months, 17 countries and myriad adventures.

After years of travel, O’Kane and her husband have settled into a lucrative career of home renovation when a Jeopardy! answer (“What is ‘the Amazon’?”) spurs their dormant wanderlust. They plan a largely overland trek from Casablanca to Cape Town, buying seats on a truck captained by an Australian man known only as “the Mechanic.” Destined for Cape Town with this cantankerous escort and eight fellow passengers, they cross Morocco and the perilous Western Sahara, then transit Mauritania, Senegal, the Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana before deciding to tackle the rest of Africa on their own. This road-trip portion of their journey is studded with amusing conflicts among the truck-mates, who include an alcoholic and a pair of “tongue-swabbing” middle-aged lovers. O’Kane is an endearing and enthusiastic narrator, whose observations of her fellow travelers, as well as the native Africans, are both generous and simplistic. During a month in Ghana, O’Kane contracts malaria, battles an extorting bus driver and finds her dinner choices so unimpressive she opts for vegetarian fare for a few days. Though affable and compelling, O’Kane’s storytelling is episodic, without much overarching or internal conflict, and at its weakest, reads as a “Gidget Goes to Africa.” Leaving Ghana, the couple witnesses the tumultuous lead-up to an Ethiopian election, observes a Rwandan War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha, recovers from a nastier strain of malaria at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and is mugged in Johannesburg. Transcendent moments within the natural landscape punctuate the action, and O’Kane portrays these with reverence and vivid detail, if a sometimes erring choice of tone and pacing. A spectacular moment of flying over the Zambezi’s Victoria Falls is undermined by its brevity, and O’Kane’s admission, “I almost tossed my cookies.” Her bountiful interactions with animal life are the most affecting in the narrative, with notable moments in an elephant orphanage, fleeing a charging hippo, and a toe-curling insect-larvae incident.

An enjoyable and good-hearted romp, despite low stakes and some prosaism. 

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4637-4179-2

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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