An excellent exploration of the writing process that will particularly interest those who have toyed with the idea of...

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THE SITUATION AND THE STORY

An insightful examination of personal narratives.

In the course of her discussion, teacher and journalist Gornick (The End of the Novel of Love, 1997, etc.) observes, “Thirty years ago people who thought they had a story to tell sat down to write a novel. Today they sit down to write a memoir.” She does not try to explain this shift towards personal narrative, but concentrates instead on what distinguishes a successful memoir from a failed one. Not surprisingly, she holds that a successful author draws upon personal experience to illustrate broader truths, which involves engaging “one’s own part in the situation—that is, one’s own frightened or cowardly or self-deceived part.” To illustrate her point, she has culled a variety of personal essays and memoirs that go beyond a simple recital of events. These range from George Orwell’s well-known “Shooting an Elephant” to Lynn Darling’s “For Better and Worse.” To Gornick’s credit, her selection of narratives provides an invigorating reminder of just how subtle and varied the genre can be. As V.S. Pritchett once put it, “It’s all in the art. You get no credit for living.” Thus, Gornick reads Edward Hoagland’s “The Courage of Turtles” as an exploration of the contours of human intimacy. Likewise, James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son” goes beyond the author’s own experience of racial prejudice to confront the complexities of civil society. In personal narratives, a reader must sense the author engaging his or her life dynamically. It is this quality that triggers the reader’s empathy and transforms the work from the purely personal—the Mommie Dearest syndrome—to the universal.

An excellent exploration of the writing process that will particularly interest those who have toyed with the idea of documenting their own experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-16733-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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