Biting words, rollicking entertainment. (16 b&w line drawings)



A trepid traveler bonds with his donkey during a picaresque and picturesque walk across northern Spain.

Moore (French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France, 2000, etc.) brings his hilarious, smart-alecky sensibility to bear on this—well, tale about a 500-mile journey in company with his ass and with some fairly asinine fellow pilgrims. The narrative plan is hardly unique (he begins at the chronological beginning, ends at the end), but he manages the difficult task of maintaining a highly ironic and even sarcastic tone throughout. What makes it all bearable, laughable, and enjoyable is the pure vein of self-deprecation that also runs from start to finish. Moore very rarely waxes superior to anyone (or anyass) but instead chronicles his myriad difficulties in convincing a particularly willful beast of burden to walk with him across Spain at anything like a predictable clip. Along the way, the author visits many of the relevant sites and shrines (the route was walked by some 60,000 pilgrims in 2001) and does an unobtrusive job, when the situation calls for it, of leading us back to the Middle Ages for some explanation and expatiation. (A little history alongside the humiliation.) Small miracles occur on the camino (for example, a Swiss mule expert actually arrives to help with some donkey lameness), but Moore is not seeking any religious significance in things. He appears to be a nonbeliever who very rarely maligns those who do believe. But his conclusions—such as they are—are steadfastly secular. He describes the profane (there are numerous accounts of his donkey’s—and even his own—excretions) as well as the sacred, and he swiftly characterizes (if not caricatures) some of his fellow travelers: a German who insists on saying “monkey” instead of “donkey”; a woman who looks like a Barbie doll; a man who resembles the young John Travolta. Few donkey puns go unexploited (“I was ready to kick some ass”).

Biting words, rollicking entertainment. (16 b&w line drawings)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-32082-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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