An edifying, sometimes frustrating, book for readers interested in the limitations of modern bureaucracy.




A searing indictment of the U.S.’s dysfunctional federal bureaucracy and its ramifying effects.

A Navy physicist for nearly four decades and well-published in his professional field, Pavlopoulos offers an eclectic book-length debut. Essentially a memoir, the book begins with the author’s childhood, recounting an upbringing that included time spent in the Nazi Youth Movement of 1930s Germany and his studying at the newly established Max Planck Institute of Physical Chemistry. The bulk of his reflection, though, centers around the time he spent as a physicist in the Navy, working on a wide variety of scientific research projects from lasers to optics, sometimes discussed in great technical detail. As the book’s title indicates, its principal theme is the incompetence entrenched within America’s federal civil services, protected by cronyism and craven self-interest. Pavlopoulos saves his most damning criticism for the Office of Personnel Management, an agency that oversees and regulates the operation of virtually every other agency in American government. Despite its being mandated by the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act to enact a merit-based system of compensation and promotion, the managers within the civil service continue to find ways to reward their friends at the expense of professional competence. Part of the analysis is folded into the author’s meticulous account of his own attempt to demand a promotion at the Naval Electronics Laboratory Center. While sometimes numbingly detailed, his account manages to avoid any ax-grinding attempts to settle old scores; he even reflects on his own personal bias. “Before starting to write this book, I was often troubled by questions and doubts: was I simply a malcontent? Was I reporting sour grapes? Therefore, I collected the reactions of other federal employees, and their comments are listed below.” On the whole, readers might feel burdened by such an exacting play-by-play of his appeal process. Also, the book suffers from an identity crisis of sorts, presenting itself as a personal memoir, a political study and an account of some highly specialized scientific endeavors; the appendix includes a description of Einstein’s theory of relativity. However, the main message, regarding the consequences of a wildly underperforming class of federal managers, is both startling and powerfully presented.

An edifying, sometimes frustrating, book for readers interested in the limitations of modern bureaucracy.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1625167231

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2014

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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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